Saturday, June 9, 2012

There Is So MUCH to Share This Month!

This past month has flown by, with no time to spare for updating my blog – but at least I finally finished my Bed of Roses quilt!  I am more than happy with how it turned out.  Sometimes I just don’t fall in love with my quilts until they are quilted.  That was also the case with Tucker’s Tulips – which surprisingly won Best of Show and Judges Choice at my guild’s quilt show last month. As a reminder, here is Tucker's Tulips.

I am mildly embarrassed because there were so many truly spectacular quilts in the show; here it is, but what I really want to show you all are the other tulip quilts!  What other quilts, you ask?  In one of my bees, I drew a pattern for a 12” block based on an old 1800s quilt made by Serena Tucker.  Several bee members took the pattern and decided on their own settings for the block – changing colors, sizes, and the number of blocks.  Here’s what a tulip block can look like when made without any instructions except “modify it as you see fit.” 

First, here is Marsha Fuller's quilt.  She took the pattern, enlarged it, set it on point, and added floaters and a wonderful set of borders.  

Next, here is Pat Cotter's tulip.  She also enlarged the block - and set it on a black background with a red floater border.  It is lovely!  The wonderful quilting on this one was done by Denise Green.

Next is Fran Gentry's quilt.  She made it for her grand daughter -- adding lovely hearts in the setting triangles.

I love the ingenuity in this next one, made by Joy Hampton.  She appliqued two blocks... and then stitched two blocks using embroidery floss!

Here's a close-up of the embroidered blocks.  What a wonderful idea!  The quilting on this quilt was also done by Denise Green.

Jerrianne Evans chose a different path -- since the bee we all belong to is called the UFO bee, and was started with the notion that we would work on UFOs... she took a set of homeless basket blocks, set them with a border of flowers... and took the tulip from the tulip pattern and used it in the border.  Talk about creativity!

Georgann Wrinkle chose to modify the pattern more significantly than most of us -- she shrunk it to make four teeny little blocks and then added a little mini-border of ruffled swags.  Don't you just love this idea?

Sharon Meyer, on the other hand, modified the vase significantly, then added sashing strips of 9-patch blocks.  What a great idea!  I love the colors Sharon chose, also. 

Jean Cloyd chose to use four blocks, but set them apart from each other and added wide borders that accented the colors she used in the tulips. 

Jean's quilt was quilted by one of my favorite quilters, Cynthia Clark; her work was phenomenal, as you can see here.

Aren't all of these quilts amazing?  Would you have ever guessed that they all came from the same single pattern?  Think about taking one of your bees and giving them a challenge like this -- choose a block and give them these instructions:  modify as you see fit!  Give a deadline that is generous in time so that nobody is stifled by the workload.  You might be amazed at what you see.

Here is one more example of how a pattern was modified.  Below is my Lily Rosenberry quilt.

Here is Lily Rosenberry again... but the queen of shrinking blocks has taken the Lily Rosenberry blocks, modified it and reduced it in size so that the blocks are a teeny 8 inches in size!  She devised her own border to surround the four-block center.  Oh my, but Georgann has patience when it comes to stitching LOTS of tiny pieces!  But aren't you starting to see how taking a single block and modifying it gives you a whole new view on a quilt?  Gotta love it!  By the way -- all the ribbons you have seen on these quilts are from my guild's recent quilt show.  Eventually, photos of all the quilts will be posted on their website ( - but wait for a couple of months before bothering to look; photo prep is a time-consuming process.

Another set of quilts that was in the guild quilt show was the Round Robin quilts that five of us all worked on.  For those not familiar with robins, a round robin is a method for having a group of quilters all work on each others’ quilts in serial fashion.  That is, Quilter A makes a block and passes it to Quilter B who adds to it (setting it on point, adding a border, adding applique, or whatever...), who then passes it to Quilter C who adds more to the quilt center.  Eventually, everyone in the group (usually 5-6 quilters) adds something, and the final “pass it along” step is when the quilt top is returned to the person who made the starting block.  It’s a great way to sharpen your skills because you may work in colors and themes that push you both technically and creatively.  In our group, we passed fabric along with the original block and we gave each other two months to do an addition before the sets were passed along.  It’s a lot of fun – and look how gorgeous the quilts are!
Here is Cynthia Clark's, with its double feathered star center. 

Jean Cloyd's robin was unique by the time we had all finished working on it.  We turned her rectangular center into a square quilt!

Marsha Fuller's used a combination of piecing and applique - I added the border outside of the stars... and it inspired me when I was designing the border of my new Bed of Roses quilt.  This quilt is gorgeous to view.

I think I won the lottery -- I SO love what the gals did to my quilt block.  They certainly don't stoop to avoid a lot of work, do they?

Georgann Wrinkle's quilt used a wonderful combination of soft pastel reproduction prints - something I don't often see.  I love how the gals took the flower in her center block and reproduced it in the setting triangles and the cornerstones.

Round robin quilts are certainly a wonderful way to build upon your skill set -- and such fun!

Okay... I started this blog by saying that I finished my Bed of Roses quilt... so where is it?  And I mean I FINISHED the quilt – it’s quilted and bound, with only a label and sleeve left to be added to it.  First, the whole-quilt picture:

And now for some close-up pictures.  I did cross-hatch quilting in the setting triangles and in the four rose-tree urn blocks.  In those rose-tree urn blocks, though, I added a portion of a feathered wreath so that the center block stood out.  The rest of the appliqued blocks were echo quilted.

 Here's a better photo of those feathered wreaths on the rose-tree urn blocks.

And another photo of the center...

 And finally, a photo of the quilt lying on my sofa... ready for me to enjoy!

One thing I want to point out is that there is a lot of detailed quilting in my quilts.  I believe that quilting really can enhance the piecing and applique in any quilt, when it is done well.  I think about the quilting design in all of my quilts before I start them.  It makes a difference!  And one thing I always do is quilt in the ditch around every bit of applique or piecing - it makes them stand out.  I think my biggest complaint about a lot of for-hire longarm quilters is that they are "production" quilters - they do what is fastest so that they can finish the quilt quickly.  Some quilts are utility quilts, and that's fine - but I've seen many outstanding quilts that were diminished by quickly quilted loops and stars and feathers and a total lack of in-the-ditch quilting.  My message in this is that you should know the style of your longarm quilter and you should have a detailed discussion with him or her about how you want your quilt quilted!

This is a very long blog entry (which might explain why I'm late!), but I want to throw in three more things, very quickly.  First, Avon asked if I ever use white-on-white versus tone-on-tone prints for the background.  Absolutely, I do!  I use whatever I think will best enhance the overall look of the quilt – sometimes it’s a solid white or off-white, sometimes it’s a white-on-white, and sometimes it’s a neutral print.  Next, Gail commented and asked when the pattern would be available for my Stars and Nine-Patches quilt (refer to my March 31, 2011 entry).  The answer is...  I am not sure!  I’m running far behind on pattern-writing, but will eventually get the pattern done.  Give me a few months.  Third, for those who went out and bought the June issue of Quiltmaker, looking for the article featuring my paper-cut quilt and how I hand applique, I apologize.  I should have been more specific:  the article is in the July/August issue, which hits the newsstand in June.  So here is what I couldn’t show you earlier -- a four-block paper cut quilt!

The Quiltmaker magazine has quite a few close-up photos of how I do needle-turn applique (  The quilt was fun to make – you might think about doing a simple quilt like this for yourself, for a baby gift, or as a gift to a friend or for your guild’s auction.  It is easier than you think - and the magazine has many detailed pictures of my applique.  I tried making a video to include in this blog, but discovered that Google has SO many restrictions and rules and agreements associated with videos that it just wasn't worth the effort (darn it!).

Next, I wanted to say something about why we quilt.  Why do YOU quilt?  Let me start by saying that I received an email from Anita Smith who sent me a photo of a nearly-finished Ladies of the Sea (which I designed), made by 83-year old Joanne Ellsworth – an amazing woman who began her career as a millinery buyer for The Bon Marche in New York City.  In Joanne's own words, “While growing up in Whittier, California, I was exposed to quilting at every turn.  Grandma quilted and made clothes for me.  Mother sewed for us as well as making slip covers and other household projects.  Is it any wonder that I majored in Home Economics?”  She jumped into quilting in 1985 after she retired and joined “Quilters on the Rock” on Whidbey Island.  In 1991, she perfected her applique in a workshop with Elly Sienkiewicz, and later perfected her quilting stitch after taking a workshop from Nancy Lee Chong in Hawaiian quilting. Two things are clear to me:  quilting is Joanne’s passion, and learning never stops!  I can't argue with those concepts, for sure.

Above is Joanne with her Ladies of the Sea quilt.  You ROCK, Joanne!!!
But there's more to quilting than passion, though passion often fuels the fire.  Last week I got an email from Becky Stephenson, who has been active in Relay for Life which helps communities across the globe celebrate the lives of people who have battled cancer, remember loved ones lost, and fight back against the disease.  For the past three years, Becky has made a quilt to raise funds for Relay for Life; her mother and her sister and her brother all died of cancer, and Becky is a cancer survivor, so her commitment to Relay for Life is very personal.  I have been honored to be invited to quilt the quilts she's made for Relay for Life.  Here is here latest one - the small stars in the border are a tiny 3 inches in size!.

This year, at the Relay for Life events in Fairfield, Texas, where Becky lives... well, let me allow Becky to tell the story...

For several months prior to the Relay we sell luminaries "in memory" or "in honor" of those that have had cancer.  We line the track with the luminaries (they are placed in white sacks with the names written on them) at the high school football stadium where we have the Relay.  At dark we light them and turn out the stadium lights.  There are several hundred luminaries.  It is a site to behold to say the least.  Then each name is called out in a very moving ceremony.  The luminaries are placed on the track randomly usually by our "community service" workers.  It was really windy while they were being placed that night.  One of the luminary sacks fell over that was directly in front of my tent where my friend Betty and I were selling tickets on the quilt.  I got up and uprighted the sack at which time I noticed it had mother's name on it.  Then I looked to left and there was my brother Mike's sack and to the right of mother was Aunt Gayle's.  Betty saw the look on my face and asked me what was wrong.  I purchase these at every Relay.  In all the years I have attended Relay I think I have found Mike's or maybe Mom's one time.  I usually don't have time to try to find them because I am too busy with all that goes on during Relay.  It was comforting to me to know their memory was close to me all night.  Betty passed on this to the other committee members and soon everyone was in tears.  Before the luminary ceremony we drew for the quilt.  When I called out my sister Jerrianne’s name as the winner, there was a huge applause from the crowd.  Before the luminary names were called out the speaker told everyone in the stadium about this. There was another round of applause.  It was heartwarming but also bittersweet.  This ceremony is always very emotional for me but especially this year.  After the ceremony and when the lights were back on, several people from crowd came up to me and gave me a hug and said "now we know why you do this every year" and thanked my husband Phillip and I for our work.  We don't do this for attention but I thought maybe we might have recruited some more volunteers for next year.  I can always hope anyway.

As I read this note from Becky, it became so obvious to me that I – and we – quilt for many different reasons.  Designing and making quilts is a personal artistic expression – and inspiring others to make quilts is very rewarding to me.  Living amongst a community of friends who enjoy the art of quilt making provides each of us with enormous support.  But plenty of what I do is because it supports the wider community – whether it is from entering quilts into the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo that have earned over $100,000 in scholarships for local youth, or from making community service quilts that support Ronald McDonald House and The Rose and Brooks Army Medical Center, or from quilting Becky’s quilts for Relay for Life in support of cancer research, quilt making for me is rarely a solitary act, it is more often an act of solidarity that brings comfort and healing to others, and is done in support of the broader community.
Okay... let’s get on with making more quilts, expressing our passion for life, and quilting.  If you happen to be in the Houston Bay Area on the third Monday in August, consider visiting our local guild’s ( annual auction.  We will have a boutique, a book/magazine sale, a silent auction, and a fantastic live auction.  My mother, who is an invalid, is no longer able to quilt, and has donated her stash to me.  There will be a fabric sale to beat all fabric sales, with no fabric over $4/yard... fat quarters, yardage, stacks of 10-inch squares, finished quilts, notions galore, tons of patterns and kits and blocks-of-the-month... the list goes on and on.  I’ve been a lunatic these past two weeks, pressing, cutting, folding, and packaging fabric, laundering old quilts, and sorting out box after box.  I hope to see a huge crowd that night; it will be worth the trip down to Clear Lake!

Happy quilting, everyone!
Sue Garman
(c)2012 Susan H. Garman