The Makers

April 29, 2016

Yesterday John and I drove from our gig in Blairsville Georgia (up near the beginning of the Appalachian Trail in the mountains) to Decatur, where we have a few days off to explore the Atlanta area.  On our way here, we took a side trip to a most interesting school in the mountains: the John C. Campbell Folk School in Brasstown, NC.

16 John Campbell Folk School (1) sign small

We strolled through wooded grounds, an area of about 2 city blocks, from building to building, where there were woodworking, jewelry, clay, enameling, fiber arts, and cooking studios, a blacksmith shop and outdoor kilns.  There were vegetable gardens, a history centre and a craft shop, as well as cabins where people can stay during their week-long retreats.

16 John Campbell Folk School (11) cabin in the woods small

I don’t know if this is one of the cabins you can stay in – but wouldn’t it be great?

There were classes going on in every building.  Not huge classes.  In fact, the guitar class with Steve Kilby only had 4 students when we went by. But it was wonderful to see the facility, and I’m sure there are times when the classes are completely full.  They have the capacity for lots of students.

16 John Campbell Folk School (3) outdoor kilns small

These are the outdoor pottery kilns.

There are so many looms in the weaving studio!  And, of course, there’s a Barn Quilt on the side of the Fiber Arts Building.

I have been told about this place before – friends from Florida showed me the annual brochure years ago, but we’ve never been in the area to stop by before.  The facility is so impressive.

We stopped into the quilt studio (of course!) and met Jackie Cory and her class there.

16 John Campbell Folk School (8) quilting studio small

It’s a light and airy studio, very flexible for any number of students.  All the sewing machines and tools are provided, which means nobody has to fly there with their prized Bernina as carry-on!  Jackie was teaching a week-long class in colour value, and there were lots of quilts and quilts-in-progress all over the room.  It seemed like a really relaxed time, and everyone was happy.  I sang a song for them as they worked. It was fun.

I’m so impressed with this facility, and I’d love to teach there – Jackie told me that there’s a 2-year waiting list for teachers, and she got in because there was a cancellation due to surgery with one of the other teachers.  So it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll ever go.  But I can dream…..

What this says to me is that there are others out there like me and you:  people I call MAKERS.  Makers are the painters, potters, brewers, woodworkers, chefs, canners, hookers, knitters, builders, inventors and vintners.  They create something out of nothing, and they are very “hot” right now.

When we were in England, I was impressed to see people still thatching roofs.  I came to believe that everything that anyone ever did there (including tapestry making, window-leading, glass blowing and strange ancient house building techniques) IS STILL BEING DONE THERE.  By somebody.

I believe the act of making something tangible from an idea in your mind through your fingers into reality is central to being human. All those shop and home ec classes in school prepared us for a lifetime of creation.  I’ll include songwriting and playing an instrument in there, too, although you can’t touch the performance or wrap yourself in it when you’re done (but it is central to MY work).

I think it’s what gives my life meaning.  I have been a Maker forever, without recognizing it, nor valuing it until recent years. It is not highly thought of in the corporate world.  Regardless, there is nothing more calming than entering “the zone” and losing track of time while concentrating on making something. At the end of it, you can look and touch what wasn’t there before. And know that you made it.

I’ll never forget the time I sat at my kitchen table with my first successful loaf of bread that I made from scratch.  I ate it with my homemade marmalade. I felt like a queen.

So, whenever you might think:  “I’m just not creative”, give yourself a shake.  Go make a meal, quilt some potholders or knit yourself a dish cloth.  Buy a wine kit. Put together a bird house. Plant some flowers in your garden.

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What will you make today?

Aloha Quilt Cruise

September 26, 2015

Hi everyone:

I PROMISE I’ll update you on my travels to Hawaii on the Star Princess.  But I have limited access to wi-fi.  Here are a couple of pictures to start, though.

Having a great time with everyone.  The classes are going well.  We are now on the Islands for four days, then we’ll be heading back across the Pacific to Vancouver.

First night cocktail party.  Ready to go!

First night cocktail party. Ready to go!

Working on my Millie by the pool.

Working on my Millie by the pool.

I bought a bit of fabric in Hilo, including some here at the Discount Fabric Warehouse.  We had a great visit to Kilauea Kreations II as well - great quilt shop!

I bought a bit of fabric in Hilo, including some here at the Discount Fabric Warehouse. We had a great visit to Kilauea Kreations II as well – great quilt shop!

My friend Nora drove over to Hilo from the other side of the Island to spend the afternoon with me, and she brought a couple of her Millie rosettes.  Thanks, Nora - great to see you again!

My friend Nora drove over to Hilo from the other side of the Island to spend the afternoon with me, and she brought a couple of her Millie rosettes. Thanks, Nora – great to see you again!

It rained a lot when we were on the Big Island, but here in Maui today it’s beautiful.  Time to leave Starbucks and get back out there!



One Week from Today! Packing, Packing

September 12, 2015

The bags are getting packed, the kits are all finished, we’ve amassed a bunch of door prizes, and your sewing machines await! I’m practicing the ukulele, and bringing along a bag of quilts for my show and tell for the concerts.


In one week we’ll be embarking on our 15 day dream cruise to Hawaii!

As you’re packing, remember that Hawaii no longer uses plastic bags.  If you’re planning to do some shopping, you might just throw in a cloth bag for your use there.  They’re always very handy to have anyway.

I’ve been checking the weather and it looks as if we might get some rain while we’re there – it won’t be cold, just wet, so bring along some rain gear (unless you intend to live in your bathing suit!). Rain is the reason we’ll see so many beautiful flowers in Hilo and on the other islands, and if you live in the west, this summer’s drought means you will never complain about a little rain.

What else?

I’ve decided to throw in a pair of binoculars in my suitcase, in case I happen to be within a kilometre of a whale. (No guarantee, because it will be very early in the humpback whale spotting season.)


What else do you think you’ll need for this cruise?  Leave a message in the comments below. It could be helpful for some of your fellow cruisers.

What I’ve been doing

August 28, 2015

I’ve just realized my last blog post was in June!  You must think I’m being very lax in keeping up to date with you.

In fact, I’ve been pretty busy.  John and I had a couple of weeks in Ontario, visiting family and friends, and singing at the International Plowing Match quilt show in Finch Ontario.  It was a great reception by about 100 quilters amid a lovely show.

This was the view from the stage in Finch before we sang - about 100 showed up, as I tried to keep my attention on what I was doing - it's hard to concentrate when there are so many beautiful quilts in front of me!

This was the view from the stage in Finch before we sang – about 100 showed up, as I tried to keep my attention on what I was doing – it was hard to concentrate when there were so many beautiful quilts in front of me!

While we were back in Ontario, we did a lot of summer-in-Ontario things one is meant to do:  attended a play at Stratford, saw a concert at the Festival of the Sound in Parry Sound, swam in the Ottawa River, visited Upper Canada Village and generally had a wonderful time.

I also gave away TWO quilts.  One I made for my nephew and his bride – they got married a year ago. They will soon be living back on Vancouver Island, and both asked for a quilt featuring an arbutus tree (in the US they’re called madronas). I learned a lot making this quilt and I’m very happy with how it turned out. It’s a wall hanging.

This quilt is called "Embrace".

This quilt is called “Embrace”.

We took a special side trip to Parry Sound to present the James Miller quilt (that I wrote about in the song “My Grandfather’s Brother”) to the museum there.  This is a significant historical item from Depot Harbour – now a ghost town nearby. It was made in 1905, so it’s in very delicate condition. They will take very good care of it there, and I was thrilled to hear that they plan to use it as the cornerstone of an exhibit about Depot Harbour at some point in the next 3 years!

This is the quilt, me and Nadine Hammond, the curator of the museum.

This is the quilt, me and Nadine Hammond, the curator of the museum.

Now that we’re home again, it’s all about the final approach to the Aloha Quilt Cruise with Brandy Lynn Maslowski. We embark on September 19th in Vancouver and return to Vancouver on October 4th.  That’s FIFTEEN days on board, and visits to four of the Hawaiian islands.  There are eight days of classes on this cruise, as well as opening and closing concerts/ trunk shows and show and tell opportunities. Yes, I’ll be writing a song with the non-quilters aboard as well (shhh – it’s a secret!)

These are some of the hand-dyes I've been making for one of my cruise classes.

These are some of the hand-dyes I’ve been making for one of my cruise classes.

When I return from the cruise, I’ll have one night home before John and I load the car and head out for a 7 week tour of California and Texas.  The full itinerary is on the website  Will we see you at some point in our travels?

Necessity is the Mother of Invention – Light Box!

June 26, 2015

Sometimes you just need a certain tool to do a project.  It’s specific to the job at hand and you know they make it.  Maybe you’d be lucky to find one in town, at an affordable price, but you know it’s not going to get a lot of use, and besides: you need it NOW!

I’m back to work on my next quilt – it’s a wedding quilt for my nephew who married his sweetheart almost a year ago.  I gave them a gift and asked them if they wanted a quilt as well.  They enthusiastically said yes!  They were very specific what they wanted – a wall hanging of a West Coast scene with ocean, mountains, sky, sun and an arbutus tree (also known south of the border as madrona) in the foreground.  I have it mostly designed now and today I started in on it.

Here's the design all drawn on freezer paper.

Here’s the design all drawn on freezer paper. There are lots of little registration lines as well as the design here. It’s about 36″ wide.

I’m using a technique developed by Caryl Bryer Fallert Gentry called “Applipiecing” which she uses for a good many of her quilts.  Basically, you cut out your templates from the freezer paper, attach the fabric, turn in one edge of it (using spray starch), and zig zag it together again.  I’m doing most of the quilt this way.  It’s pretty important to be able to see all the registration lines through the fabric to fit it together again, and I was having to hold it up to the ceiling light – it wasn’t working at all!

I needed a Light Box!

I’ve been coveting one for a while now, but surely there was a way to do it quickly, easily, and with what I already had?  How hard could it be?

I got a neck light from Ami Simms when we visited her in the spring; I use it at night when I’m working on my hexagons. It’s really really bright and really really small.

This is the Sew Easy neck light. It uses two AA batteries.

This is the Sew Easy neck light. It uses two AA batteries. It illuminates like full daylight when it’s turned on.

I found a small plastic box I was using to store stuff and emptied it out, turned it over, put the light underneath and VOILA!  A perfect light box for my project!

Here's the design all drawn on freezer paper.

My new light box!

I can see my registration lines through the fabric now.

I can see my registration lines through the fabric now.

I’m going to let Ami Simms know about this – I just know she’s going to be able to sell a whole bunch more of these lights when they find out about this!

And here’s how far I got today on this project.  The ocean is just over half done.  This won’t take long at all, at this rate!

002 piecing ocean

More pictures to come!

New Block of the Month about to start!

May 5, 2015
Star and Plume quilt

Star and Plume quilt

If you’ve seen us perform in the last 10 years, you’ve likely seen this quilt.  It’s called the Star and Plume, and has 48 blocks to tell the story of Sunbonnet Sue’s encounter with a scary “slasher” guy. She ends up “outgunning” him and they live happily ever after.  The song I wrote to tell this story uses 48 quilt block names to tell it, and a number of people over the years wanted to make it too.  Two years ago I started the first Block of the Month for the Star and Plume, and the first group has finished up.  (I’m still waiting to see their finished quilts!!!).

Now that I have nothing to do on the first of every month – AND because I keep receiving requests to get in on the BOM – I’m starting it again on JUNE 1st.

For $5 a month, you will receive two patterns in your Inbox. At the end of 24 months (if you keep up to date, of course!) you’ll have a finished quilt!  The quilt measures 68″ x 90″ and can easily get a border added to make it fit a queen sized bed.

I consider this an excellent learning quilt – not your beginner sampler quilt! Techniques covered include: basic piecing, half- and quarter-square triangles, paper foundation piecing, curved piecing, diamonds, machine and hand applique, and English Paper Piecing. The blocks are sent out from easy to challenging, so that your skills build with each block.

If you’re interested in finding out more, please visit the website and go to the “NEW! Block of the Month” tab on the left hand side.

Approaching Paducah!

April 21, 2015

John and I are on the road again for our spring tour. We have done a few shows already, and are on track to land in Paducah tomorrow for the American Quilters Society QuiltWeek.  It’s my first time singing and teaching at the show, and I’m very excited!

We left home on April 1st and drove across Canada to Ontario to do a class in Lindsay.  Here’s what they did in the day-long class.  Beautiful work!

The Mock Mola class in Lindsay Ontario

The Mock Mola class in Lindsay Ontario

From there, we crossed the border and sang in Grand Haven Michigan (beautiful spot – would love to see it in the summer!).  We drove up to La Crosse Wisconsin the next day to attend a concert by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – a group we’ve been fans of for years, thanks to their YouTube videos.

When in Rome…… or in Wisconsin, one must stop at a cheese shop, and I found some TWELVE year old cheddar there.  Very yummy (it’s almost gone now). While we were in the shop, John couldn’t resist the lure of the Cheeseheads…..

Cheesehead John

Cheesehead John

Then back to Flint Michigan to see our friend Ami Simms, and sing for her guild there.  it was a great evening – fantastic show and tell! Before the meeting started, though, I was invited outside to see a magnificent crazy quilt in the back of a car – it all felt very hush-hush, but really it was because she had shown it the month before. No photograph will ever capture the amazing chock-a-block embroidery on this quilt.  Every inch had something wonderful filling the space.

Kathleen's crazy quilt

Kathleen’s crazy quilt

It was lovely to spend time with Ami, and we did a bit of “retail therapy” in the fabric shop while I was there! While I always prefer to shop in quilt stores on our travels, it is sometime useful to pop into the big stores, and this was one of those times.  Joann Fabrics had an amazing sale:  Fat quarters for $.75 each!  I’m afraid the car is quite a bit heavier now with my purchases from that night…..

So next on our agenda is four days in Paducah Kentucky.  We have attended the show twice before, but this is the first time we’ll have sung and taught there.  I am beyond excited about it!

We start tomorrow (Tuesday) with a 10 minute demonstration of Lucy Boston hexagons at the All Star Review (1-3pm at the Eisenhower Room).

On Wednesday we’ll be at the Paper Pieces studio (formerly Caryl Bryer-Fallert-Gentry’s studio) for a “Meet and Greet” at 2pm.  It’s because of them that we’re here, and I’m excited to see how they have transformed Caryl’s masterpiece which we toured last year and made it their own.  Wednesday night I’ll be teaching a Notan Class (it was sold out in January!).

Thursday will be a big day.  At 1pm we’ll be (weather permitting) singing on the front lawn of the American Quilt Museum. This concert is sponsored by our friends at Paper Pieces and I’ll be singing my song “Paducah” from the CD “In the Heart of a Quilt” for the first time live. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, we’ll move indoors to the Museum.  That evening I teach a Mock Mola class.

Finishing off on Friday with a 2pm “Meet and Greet” at Paper Pieces again.

As a side note: I’m currently running a “Notan-a-Day” challenge on my Facebook Page. There are a few of us participating, and some of the Notans being shown are stunning.  It’s not too late to jump in with your own, or just come for a look at the work.

I’m going to try to keep you posted on the goings-on at Paducah, in case you can’t attend this year.  It’s going to be a busy time, but I hope to have a few minutes to let you know what’s happening.

April: Notan a Day Challenge!!!

March 27, 2015

Quite a few years ago on my Facebook page, I challenged anyone who wanted to join me in a Notan-a-Day.  It’s all done on paper with scissors. We took pictures and uploaded it to the site.

A Notan design on paper.

A Notan design on paper.

It was so much fun, I wanted to do it again!

I’ve been teaching this design technique since then and everyone has such a good time with it.  It takes only a few minutes to do this because it’s all done on paper! Here are the rules:

1. Take a piece of paper, any shape (I usually find square, rectangular or triangular work best, but you can also try circles – it’s different)

2.  Fold the paper for symmetrical designs, do not fold for asymmetrical designs.

3. Cut shapes from the edges and flip them over so that the edge of the cut piece lines up with the edge of the original shape. DO NOT CUT AWAY A CORNER (or if you want to, try it and see what happens!) You should always be able to see the original shape in the finished design.


5. Take a picture. (I usually try to take it from above so that you can see the design clearly.)  Compress it so it isn’t a huge file and upload it to the Singing Quilter Facebook page. (you do have to belong to Facebook to do this).

Try to fill the negative space with cuts, and that can include multiple cuts, like the one below.

Spitfire Notan with 7 layers.

Spitfire Notan with 7 layers.

Who’s with me?  I’ll be on tour, so if I can do it, you can too!

Here’s my latest quilt, an asymmetrical Notan design. I designed this during the last Notan challenge.



Serendipity: Peshtigo Fire Quilt

March 25, 2015

Everyone has a “small world” story, or an amazing example of serendipity.  I love these stories, when a series of random decisions bring two people together who absolutely need to meet. One of my favourites involves the god-daughter of very close friends in Adelaide Australia, her last night in North America, me not wanting to cook dinner in our RV in Yosemite Park in California (in February!), her wearing sweat pants with “UBC” on the backside, and our address and phone number in her book. I’ll tell you that story in full sometime……

Those of you who know me have heard me say that the “meat and potatoes” of what I do is discovering actual historic stories of quilts that changed lives.   The Wisconsin quilt that was used to protect the train engineer as he transported townsfolk to Lake Michigan during the fire in Peshtigo (still the worst disaster in American history) is one of those amazing stories. I wrote about it in 2004 and it’s on the “A Quilter’s World” cd. By wetting the quilt down, and wrapping it around himself, he was able to keep himself safe as he saved many people’s lives on that horrific day.

I had been in touch with the owner of the quilt via mail to get permission to use the photograph on the CD package, but had never met her.  We have just returned from Wisconsin, singing in Oshkosh as well as Kenosha, and it was there I was able to finally meet Elinor.

Just before I was to start teaching two back-to-back one-hour classes at the quilt expo, two women came into my room.  The lead woman told me there was someone I had to meet: Elinor!

She had been standing in the lunch line beside Elinor, who hadn’t been to our concert the night before. She told Elinor about the show and songs, including the Peshtigo Fire quilt song that I sang (because we were in Wisconsin!).  Elinor knew the story VERY well – because she owns the quilt!

They didn’t know where to find me – but right beside them in line was someone who had signed up for my class, and she told them the room number.  And so, that’s how they showed up.  It was wonderful!

Elinor and me in Oshkosh

Elinor and me in Oshkosh

The next day John and I were heading for Racine for our next performance.  We had oodles of time, and decided to drive a bit out of our way to visit Elinor and see the quilt.

It’s quite large, and obviously someone got a bigger bed, because they added an extra strip along one edge.  It’s all wool, in wonderful shape, considering that it’s from the 1870s.  There is only one fabric that is in strings. The rest are fine.  It’s heavy!

003 Peshtigo fire quilt and Elinor small

Elinor bought this quilt from a member of the family of the engineer.  Amazingly enough, the steam engine that he used to ferry the people to safety had MELTED by the end of the fire, but the quilt survived!

I love my life.

I’ve been busy in Hawaii

March 7, 2015

I just realized I haven’t done a blog posting since January 21st!!  That’s a long time ago.  May I just say I’ve been busy? Let’s start with Hawaii!

John and I attended the Quilt Passions Quilting on the Beach retreat in February. It’s hosted every year by Karen and Robert Berry at the quilt shop in Kona, Hawaii and I’ll go any time they want me again!  This is just the BEST WAY to make a living!!!

The opening of the retreat was held just outside the King Kamehamea Hotel on the lawn by the sea.  They had some wonderful young hula dancers to welcome us.

Two young hula dancers entertained us.

Two young hula dancers entertained us.

Karen had asked me to contribute some guitar to their version of The Quilters (the play) during the retreat. I’ve only seen this play once before, and I remembered the music to be very challenging.  In fact, it’s the SINGING that is challenging in this score – the guitar part was quite easy (no Eb chords or anything strange).  It was a play reading, so everyone sat at their place for the most part and read and sang from there.  That being said, there had been a huge amount of work put into this, and they all did a great job.  The harmonies were great, and I even shed a tear here and there with the poignancy of the stories they told.  I hope it wasn’t obvious to the audience!  This is the view I had of the gals in the cast.  Thanks for letting me be a part of it! I do so miss doing theatre.

001 cast of The Quilters small

The cast of The Quilters

I still had lots of time to experience Kona, and one of the days John and I took a tour around the Kona Energy Lab.  Fascinating to learn about using water from very deep in the ocean to generate power, and conduct many many scientific experiments. We stopped for lunch at a cafe after visiting the abalone farm and meeting some grouper fish.  Check out the menu below (Sonia’s and Lionel’s especially).  I’ll be you won’t find Spam on your breakfast menu at home!


009 spam on the menu small

Rice and Spam seem to be breakfast staples.

We had some more time before my classes started and we explored some beaches with our new friends Pam and Rick Bocko. They are from Eugene Oregon and we had a great time with them!  This was one of our secluded spots where we did some wave jumping.



015 on the beach small


I taught Mock Mola as well as Hand Mola at the retreat, and we were almost beachside at the hotel.  Here’s what we looked at when we wandered out for lunch every day. The mountain wasn’t always shrouded in clouds, but it was always warm enough for a swim.   In fact, my fellow teacher Rob Appel, went snorkeling during his lunch break every day!


039 lunch outside of the teaching room small

My classes went very well.  There wasn’t much to see at the end of the Hand Mola class (although Nora has now completed hers!), but here’s what they created during the Mock Mola class the next day.  I loved their design ideas!

053 group shot small

Mock Mola Class at Quilting on the Beach


My good friend Daphne Greig was there too and has been blogging about her trip to Hawaii, but I really didn’t see her after the opening reception.  We were all kept busy having fun!

I told you about our new friends, Pam and Rick Bocko.  Pam runs Pieceful Designs and makes really lovely, quick wall quilt patterns – you may have seen her at a quilt show near you.  I love them – they’re charming and fun. Rick is, among other things, a ukulele player (although he bought a new guitar while they were there, so he’s adding a couple of extra strings to his repertoire). We had a wonderful time with them and laughed a LOT.

021 Pam and Rick small

This was taken after the breakfast ukulele jam session. Imagine: musicians getting up early to play!

When we finished with the retreat, John and I spent another week on the Island, doing some exploring.  I’ll be back in late September on the 2015 Aloha Quilt Cruise, so I wanted to find out a little more about the Hilo side.  We won’t be stopping in Kona, alas.

It’s much wetter on the east side of the island, and the flora reflects this extra moisture.  As soon as we crossed over from the rain shadow, things started getting lusher.  Rainforest conditions with ferns and trees and vines and flowers everywhere!  Did you know that the Big Island of Hawaii has all but 2 of the world’s growing zones?  Between the desert (west) side and the wet (east) side, and everything from sea level to the top of Mauna Kea (13,796 feet/4205 metres), you can pretty much grow whatever you want there. There’s ranchland grazing, cactus, coffee, fruit, sugar, etc, etc. It was one of the reasons I wanted to return last year to the Island, to explore it more.

And there are waterfalls – this one is Akaka Falls which is 400 feet tall – higher than Niagara Falls, to be sure!

024 Akaka Falls 400 feet tall small

Akaka Falls

South of Hilo is where all the volcanic action is happening too – there are vast lava fields everywhere on the island, but the newest land is in the southeast.  We saw some smoke rising from Kilauea while we were there, but nothing flowing into the sea.

We drove a most spectacular drive down from there – a road called the Chain of Craters Road.  It’s in the national park, and it is well worth the trip.  On the way we saw lots of evidence of previous eruptions – lots of craters and lava.  On our way down the hill to the ocean, there was an incredible view where the lava flowed down from above.  Nothing is growing on that side yet, and there are vast vistas of nothing but black lava.  We took a hike over it to see some Petroglyphs.



038 petroglyphs small

And got to the end of the road.

048 at the end of the road small

The end of the Road

I did have a traditional Hawaiian breakfast (with some international content) on our last morning there – Karen made us Danish pancakes called Aebleskivers withLilikoi (passion fruit) syrup, Spam, fresh pineapple, Kona coffee and POG juice served in a hollowed out pineapple.  Wow. Only in Hawaii!

003 last breakfast small

A huge Mahalo to Karen and Robert for inviting us to come to the retreat, and for the loan of the snorkel gear and for showing us the best of their adopted island.

I’ll be going back, as I mentioned above, in September.  I’ve checked out some of the local quilt shops on the east side of the island, and I have recommendations of things to do there.  I’m very excited about it.  Would you like to join me?  Check out to find out more.

I’ll continue with my update in my next posting.




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