September 3, 2018


About a month ago, I did two days of workshops with Lisa Binkley on bead embroidery.  I've been making embroidered hamsot for a few years (see post here).  Here are a couple of them:


I've been thinking for a while that they would look nice with the some beaded embellishment, so when I saw Lisa's workshops being offered close by, I signed up. The top photo is one of the samplers I started at the workshop, all done according to specific instructions, with beads provided. I enjoyed doing the beading, and am eager to try it out on a new hamsa. One of the attractions for me is that it gave me the opportunity to open up my mother's wicker box of beading paraphernalia, to see if there was anything I could use.

My mother did many crafts, including knitting (always a mainstay), crochet, macrame, needlepoint, embroidery, rug hooking, and beading. She used beads to make jewelry (mostly necklaces and bracelets), and she loved making beaded flowers. The jewelry was lovely, but I never saw the appeal of the large floral arrangements, of which she made many. I was glad when one of my cousins wanted one of these when we were closing up my parents' house, and I took some packed in a box, just because I couldn't bear to throw out her painstaking work. I do have a couple of small pieces in my home, including this beaded Christmas tree (about 10" high):

I love the candy canes and the draped "tinsel."

I also took her beading box, not thinking I would ever make use of it, but again, not being able to discard it. But now I had a reason to rummage around in it to see what I might be able to use--a great pleasure.

There were many beads that are possibilities for hamsa embellishment. I packaged them up and set them in the tray that went in the box. About 8 of the little bags below are beads left over from the workshop I took, but the rest are all from my mother's supply.

So, I've spent a couple of weeks doing a sampler of embroidery stitches with beaded embellishment. The work is slow, but very satisfying. I've left in this sampler less successful efforts as well as ones I like very much--they will help me remember what not to do as well as what stitches to use.

And a close-up that has a few of my favorites, including the starburst in the upper right and the staggered green thread with purple beads in the upper left. (As always, click on a photo to see it enlarged.)

September 2, 2018

More uses of Marcia Derse's fabric

As I mentioned in the last post, I purchased about 20 half-yards of Marcia Derse's fabric, which was more than enough for the wedding quilt I was planning. I figured how much I needed for that, and used some of the excess to make placemats for my sister's large, round dining room table.  I used the same design as for my own kitchen table, a wedge shape that works really well on a round table. Here's my own set, made out of Japanese daiwabo fabric:

But my sister's table is a lot larger than mine, and the placemats look pretty lonely!

I decided to make a round mat for the center of the table, large enough to cover the central glass circle, or perhaps even to cover the black circle of the structural support.  Earlier this summer I started working on it, using fabric left over from the wedding quilt. I decided on improvised curved piecing, constructed one quarter-circle at a time. Here it is in progress:

 Once I got beyond the first several arcs, I had to piece chunks of fabric. Here's an arc made of three pieces of fabric:

Then the already pieced section gets laid on top, as shown below. Next step was to cut along the edge of the already-pieced section, and then I pieced them together.

Here's the final piece, roughly trimmed. I'll wait to decide on the final size until I can see it on my sister's table.

The quilting is a simple wavy line, spiralling around from the center outwards:

When trimmed, it could be left somewhat irregular in shape, or can be trimmed into a clean circle. Using Photoshop to mask off the edges, a circle would look like this:

My sister will get to choose, but maybe she'd like your advice :-)

September 1, 2018

Three wedding quilts

I've had the pleasure of giving three quilts as wedding presents in the last six months.  I'll show them in the order of the weddings:

The March quilt was made from a pattern in Modern Triangle Quilts, by Rebecca Bryan.  Here's a photo from the book:
pattern by Rebecca Bryan
And here's the version that I made. 

you can click (or double-click) on any image to see it larger
After consultation with the prospective bride and groom, we changed the background color to a dark indigo (dyed with Dharma's "indigo" color), and tweaked the colors in the blocks include some blues and black. The blue fabrics I used were also hand-dyed (lighter values of the same color used in the background), while the rest were commercial solids. I used the pattern for guidance on placement of the four large triangles (16" tall versus the rest that are 8") and for the approximate proportion of background to blocks. Although the blocks have an improvised look to them, they are actually done according to specific instructions, with some paper-pieced.  I thought I'd start out with the blocks in the book, and then branch off into improvisation, but it was interesting to try out the different block patterns, so I stayed with those. A friend said the quilt reminded her of the pennants that sailboats fly, so I called it "Regatta." For the back, I dyed fabric in one of the yellow/gold colors, and incorporated some leftover triangles, both pieced and plain.

The July quilt started some time ago as a "travel appliqué project."  I like to have hand-work to take on trips, to help pass the time in airports, on planes, or in the car. In the car, knitting works best; if it's a plane trip, I bring appliqué. But it has to be "one-piece" appliqué, something where I can baste on one large shape and sew, without having to carry around a bunch of little pieces that go on one at a time. (Actually, even when I'm not travelling, I prefer the one-piece variety.)  I bought this Roxanne Products pattern some years ago, five gingko leaf patterns based on Japanese family crests:

pattern by Roxanne Products

I've been working on one or another of these blocks for a few years, thinking I would likely put them into a wall hanging, as shown in the pattern. But as I was finishing up the last block this spring, I got news of an upcoming July wedding, and I thought it would be nice to use the blocks instead in a lap-sized quilt to give as a present. I purchased several yards of a black and gold batik fabric that I planned to use for the background, and brought everything to the four-day spring retreat of the Quilters by Design group. I was thinking that I'd lay out the blocks as shown in the pattern, using the batik as background, and then just have a large block of background at the bottom. No one was enthusiastic. Ideas were offered and tried out. Forget the gold/black batik--I changed to the same almost-solid-black batik that I used in the appliqué. And forget the block layout in the pattern. As we moved blocks around, someone called out "Posh Tot!" referring to a Blue Underground pattern by Christy Marnell (an original member of our group) that many of us have made.  Here are a few that I've made as baby quilts:


Yes, the gingko blocks are very striking when laid out that way! A real tribute to how opening one's work up to critique can result in significant improvement :-)

I did free-motion quilting within the blocks, and straight-line horizontal quilting on the left and right panels.  The black/gold fabric found a home on the back of the quilt.

Finally, the quilt for the August wedding. This one used a pattern by Heather Harding called "Talofa Samoa," made with fabrics for Hawaiian shirts.
pattern by Heather Harding
A couple of years ago, I saw a quilt from this pattern made by my friend Kathy Durochik, using fabrics by Marcia Derse, fabrics I like very much and have used in smaller pieces, like the first table runner in this post, as well as in table napkins (which led me to screen print my own fabric to make napkins). I loved Kathy's version of the quilt, and when I was later at Marcia Derse's shop on Whidbey Island, I bought about 20 half-yard pieces, planning to try my hand at the same thing. Here's Kathy's version:

Kathy Durochik's version
 And here's my version. The pattern is such a nice vehicle for Marcia Derse's beautiful fabric.

For the back, I hand-dyed some green fabric (which turns out to be a favorite color of the bride's). If you click on the image to enlarge it, you'll be able to see the quilting, more visible on the back. This one I took to a long-armer to do an overall design.

* * * * *

All three of the recipients (two brides, one groom) were people who had grown up knowing my son Jeremy, and one of them was an especially good friend.  It was a great delight to be included in these celebrations, each of them thoughtfully put together, permeated with the personality and commitments of each couple. But by the third, all so close together, I couldn't help but feel a deep sadness too, that Jeremy didn't make it to this stage of life. . .  Sitting here thinking about this, it occurs to me that I could still make a wedding quilt for Jeremy, imagining what he might like. I think his favorite color would still be blue.