Category Archives: Commentary

A Holiday Trifecta

I love hanging out with creative types because you never know what will spring forth from their brains. At a recent meeting I saw the ultimate quilter’s holiday diorama.

The artist took an artificial foam pumpkin, cut off a third of it, lined it with sewing patterns, and decorated it for the holidays. There’s Christmas and Halloween/harvest quilts, two cats, baskets of yarn, fabrics, and sewing notions, a sewing machine, and even a cutting mat. The outside of the pumpkin is decorated with all sorts of charms, mostly skull related as the maker has a thing about them.

Man caves have nothing on quilters’ caves.


Filed under Commentary

My Scrap-a-thon

I store my fabric scraps in containers of big chunks, little chunks, and strips. I have been known to rummage in trash cans after a group sewing session. My parents were children of the great depression so I absorbed the lesson to save leftovers by their example. When I noticed that I couldn’t fit the lid on my container of less than 1.5 inch wide strips I decided it was time to create fabric out of those strips. (I also have containers of 1,5 inch, 2 inch, and 2.5 inch strips.)

Here’s what was left after I pulled out all the strips I thought I could use. These leftovers are mostly multi-colored prints that don’t play well with others and want to hog the show. Some of the strips even ended up in the trash.

First I sorted the strips into color families and values.

Then I sewed the strips together. I’ll treat these as whole pieces of cloth when I use them, even though some (such as that pink in the purple) contain zingers.

Of course, I found other candidates for cloth making in my “to be filed” pile, so I sewed them together, too.

My boxes of small chunky scraps are next up for fabric creation. I have an idea to make a crazy quilt bullseye piece for an Ohio SAQA challenge. Wow, I sure have a lot of blue and blue-green scraps.

In case you think I’m a bit obsessive about scrap hoarding collecting, check out this quilter’s organization system.


Filed under Commentary, In Process, Techniques

In The Weeds

Sometimes I quilt a piece I’m not so enamored of to avoid dealing with a piece I haven’t a clue about and don’t want to screw up. Yet again I’ve sidestepped a larger (around 45 by 50 inches) piece by tackling a smaller one that I’m not heavily invested in emotionally.

In keeping with my recent efforts to use fabrics I created, I combined tissue paper and stamped fabrics with orphan blocks to make “In The Weeds.”

I kept cutting off bits and then adding strips, and finished up with a thermofax print; so the piece is a hodgepodge of surface design techniques. I decided it looked like a patch of weeds so I called it “In The Weeds.” I recalled that term being used by restaurant workers so I looked it up and came across this post at The Word Detective.

I decided the following sums up my methodology:

. . . as Mark Liberman points out, the use of “into the weeds” to mean “delving deep into the details” doesn’t carry the same sense of painful confusion as the restaurant use, and such “weed wandering” is actually the sort of thing true policy wonks enjoy. As he says in his Language Log post, “The metaphor here seems to be that when you wander off the beaten path, you can explore arbitrary amounts of not-very-valuable intellectual foliage (“weeds”) without getting closer to your conceptual destination.”

In other words, I’m on a side spur just detouring around that larger, more serious piece. Because I didn’t really care whether or not the piece was ruined I ran roughshod over it with free motion quilting. That was fun but resulted in quilting that would elicit “strive to maintain consistency in stitch length” from a show judge. I also learned that tissue paper fabric needs a longer length stitch than I used.


October 20, 2017 · 5:11 am

My Local Art Museum

Despite the loss of a third of its population over the past 20-30 years, Akron proudly lays claim to its own art museum, complete with a controversial modern addition.

The collection is a bit thin and most of the art is late 19th/20th century, but it contains some beauties. Here are some works that caught my eye on my last visit. (I should say they caught my eye AND photographed OK.)

You can review parts of the collection here.

Alvin Loving’s Untitled seems made for fabric, or maybe it was inspired by a quilt. The colors of the thin border lines make the diamonds vibrate, as the detail shows.

Sequinar by Marko Spalatin is half square triangle ready.

Some other works that caught my eye and camera.

Carl Gaertner’s Riverside Plant reminds me of the factories you see as you cross the Ohio River from Ashland, Kentucky, into West Virginia.

I love how the blue oval contrasts with the tan and red curved lines, and how the tan line colors are lighter inside the oval, in John Pearson’s SLG3.

On the Balcony by Frederick Frieseke reminds me of the work by Mary Cassatt and other Impressionist painters. I’m drawn to the variety of textures portrayed.

This photograph of an African woman is filled with strong textures. I like how they get smaller and more toned as you move up from the bottom. Unfortunately, I can’t read my photo of the artist’s name and I can’t find the work on the museum’s website.

(Update: thanks to Ann Scott, the photographer has been identified as Seydou Keita

You can see sculptures outside the museum from the large windows. Again, I can’t find the artist for this piece, but I like the sky reflections through the glass.

A real plus for my town’s museum is it’s free every Thursday. I guess they hope I’ll succumb and become a member.




Filed under Commentary

Holy Toledo!

Recently I got around to checking out the Toledo Museum of Art, which is about a two hour drive from where I live. I’m ashamed to say that it’s been in my backyard, so to speak, for almost 15 years and I just never visited it.

It fulfills all the requirements of a classic art museum – columned front and lots of marble steps leading up to it, generous local donors whose gifts formed the nucleus of the collection (in this case the Libbey glass family,) and at least one Rembrandt. It also has a separate glass pavilion which was undergoing rearrangement during my visit, to my disappointment. Most of the good stuff was jammed into a study room, and some of the glass could have used more breathing space. Of course I was spoiled by the Corning Glass Museum.

My personal highlights included the room of Grecian urns (and drinking cups and plates) and the huge display of netsuke. Here are the pieces I would like to display in my house (as if!)

The painting with the purple sail is by Georgia O’Keefe, a very different subject for her. You can view most of the museum’s collection on its website.

I spent a lot of time peering at the netsuke, which are mostly the size of a small plum. By accident I discovered drawers filled with inro, which are the containers for personal belongings attached to sashes with cords and secured with a netsuke. How it all worked is described in this article. Here’s an inro that features Raiden, the thunder God.

If I could have pocketed some netsuke, these are my choices:

I love that the last boat one is called How to Weigh An Elephant. The other boat is a party boat occupied by two party ladies and one gentleman. I don’t they’re interested in being weighed.


Filed under Commentary

This Year’s SAQA Auction

Recently I’ve received many emails and Instagram posts about the upcoming SAQA small quilts auction, scheduled for September 15 through October 8. Messages remind me of the number of lovely quilts and how helpful the funds raised are to SAQA. A fun aspect is the themed groups of quilts selected by SAQA members.

Benefit Auction starts Sept 15th!

The 2017 SAQA Benefit Auction will take place from September 15 through October 8. This is your chance to own beautiful and unique art quilts made by SAQA members around the world – 368 pieces are available for bidding! For details, visit

Once again I didn’t make a quilt to contribute. As I’ve said before, I have a hard time producing anything meaningful at 12 by 12 inches. Some contributors manage to pack a lot into that space.

As I did last year, I categorized the themes used. This year landscapes were most common theme by a long shot, being featured in 37 quilts, followed by botanicals in 27 quilts. The ever popular birds came in with 20 (not so many crows this year,) followed closely by people in 18 quilts. Animals were featured in 14 quilts, and bugs were the main attraction in 5. The themes used in the rest of this year’s crop were either abstract or one-offs. Of course, others will most likely come up with different ways to sort the quilts.

You can peruse all this year’s entries here. My favorites based on one review of the contributions are:

I realize each of my choices tell a story in 12 by 12 inches, even the one by Linda Colsh. If you look closely at “Crossing Paths” you’ll see a figure laden with packages. If I figure out a way to pack a story into 144 square inches I’ll make an entry for a future auction.




Filed under Art quilts, Commentary

A Few Small Repairs

Every blog reaches the point where it needs some new drapes and slipcovers as the old have gotten a bit shabby. I’ve begun that process here by deleting one feature – books about quilting that I like, and adding another – quilts I’ve made by type.

I own lots of books about quilting, even after giving away many of my books about traditional quilts and patterns. I make a point of looking at quilting books as they’re published, mostly by borrowing them from my library. However, I think that fewer books about quilting are being published, and that trend will continue. AQS will no longer publish new books, and I’ve noticed fewer titles on offer from other publishers. Some of the books that do get published, many focused on modern quilting and craft sewing, strike me as lean on content.

The availability of digital patterns and loads of free stuff on the internet, especially YouTube videos of techniques, make it so easy to do without books. Then, there are online classes from Craftsy, creativebug, and others. Of course, the classes impact the quantity of  in-person teaching available, as well.

The upshot is I realized I hadn’t added any books to that section of this blog in a few years and very few readers looked at it, so I felt it was time to retire it. You can still read reviews I’ve written by clicking on “books” under Topics. I plan to continue reviewing books of potential interest to me and my readers.

Now to the addition. When I began this blog I grouped photos of my quilts by years. Recently I thought about what types of quilts I’ve made over the years, and decided to sort my quilts by type. Turns out the majority are improvisational and graphic. Of course, my categories are a bit arbitrary as some quilts could fit more than one type. And another person would sort them differently.

I’ve kept the rest of the pages, including tutorials. I like to have tutorials I use a lot in one place. From my site’s stats it seems many people look at that page. Every so often I check to make sure the links still work, so I hope there’s not much link rot.

I’d love to hear your opinions as to what parts of this blog are helpful and/or interesting. Since I began it as a journal of my quilting experiences, I don’t cover topics I don’t care about, and it is indeed all about me and my opinions. I’ve made it public in hopes that others might learn from my experiences, especially from my goofs. One great, unanticipated, result of making my thoughts public is meeting my readers through their comments. Many thanks.


Filed under Books, Commentary