A Worthy Endeavour for 2015

January 21, 2015

Our quilt guild organized a studio tour of some of our members’ sewing rooms a few years ago.  One of the most exciting and prolific members opened up her cupboards to reveal that she had the world’s smallest stash – just a small pile of neatly folded fabrics in a small cupboard.  There were quilts everywhere, and a great many small wall hangings for sale. But no stash! I couldn’t believe it.

Lenny's stash - that's it!

Lenny’s stash – that’s all of it!

In my sewing room cupboards I have piles of old shirts, denim jeans, and old batting off cuts (too big to throw away, too small to use for a quilt). I have a bunch of unsuccessful quilt blocks from classes or experiments from years ago. I have kept yards and yards of selvages, and any piece of fabric that will cut a 1 1/2″ square. I’m not QUITE a hoarder, but I do hate throwing useful things out.  People give me old cotton clothing when they are downsizing.  It is overwhelming to open the cupboard door. Sound familiar?

I’ve been noticing lately that many of us are working from our stashes.  The stash busting started a few years ago with the Global Financial Crisis, I think – when we stopped buying so much new fabric.  Now we’re trolling not only our sewing rooms for fabric that we may have bought in better times and forgotten about, but also consignment stores for cotton clothing that we can cut down into quilts.  Happily, not everyone is doing this, or we wouldn’t have any quilt shops left!

At last week’s quilting retreat I used up some old ugly fabric (that chunk of Millenium fabric I bought in 1999 intending to make a 2000 piece charm quilt, and a skirt someone gave me because it was cotton, for example) on oven mitts that are bound for Ecuador with a friend who goes with a dental team to small villages there.  Her job is to sterilize the equipment and she is always burning her arms taking the trays out of the sterilizer. I also used up some of that leftover cotton batting (you know you can piece batting, don’t you?).  She didn’t care what they looked like and I was thrilled to be able to get this fabric I have no other use for out of my stash, and reduce the size of the bags in my cupboard.

Seven pairs of oven mitts bound for Ecuador.

Seven pairs of oven mitts bound for Ecuador.

I need to do more of this.  There’s a theory in the retail world that if you put a lower price on things, you can move the stock more quickly and replace it with something new.  I see this in some fabric shops – I’m thinking about places like Marden’s in Maine, where you can often find fabric for $5 and less per yard – and they get it. There are always new fabrics coming in and that keeps people coming back regularly.

What if we kept that in mind with our own stashes?

But it’s not only for the old ugly fabric. Two years ago I challenged two friends to make ten pieces each for a group art show we did last February/March.  One of my own challenges was to use up some of that “holy” fabric in my stash – too beautiful to use.  I gave myself permission to use anything I wanted on these pieces.  It was very freeing. I started in on my hand-dye bin and kept going.  That gorgeous piece of teal hand dye that I’ve been fondling for several years turned into this:



I can’t think of a better use for it!

What about all that denim I’ve been collecting?  I have two stacks of denim quilts blocks that I’ve put together for the next call for flood/fire/devastation quilts.  I must put them together one of these days and get them out of the house.

And the old blocks – not even UFOs because you’ll never finish them?  A few months ago my friend Wenche asked if we had any quilts we could donate for a local Alzheimers’ fundraiser.  I had just done a cleanout of my studio and offered my old blocks.  She took a couple and made wall hangings for the fundraiser!  Blocks that I couldn’t see any future for became colourful gorgeous wall hangings.

Wenche made with my block 1 Wenche made with my block 2

If I clear out some room, I’ll be able to fill it up with even more beautiful fabric!  And I won’t feel so overwhelmed with the piles of projects and little baggies of STUFF that are everywhere. Sometimes it takes some creativity to figure out what you’ll do with all of it, but there are ways – otherwise, why have you been keeping it? There are lots of books with patterns using scraps (although I think some people’s “scraps” are significantly larger than mine……), and lots of ways to use up old thread, binding, batting, etc.

I still go to the quilt shop – usually for specific projects or to replace a colour I am running short of.  But I MUST clear out my sewing room so it feels like a workable place. I think it’s a worthy endeavour for 2015.

Are you with me?  Do you have any good ideas?  Feel free to share in the comments.  I’d love to hear about them!

New Quilting Cruise Announced!!!

December 17, 2014

2009 Hawaii Iao Valley

Guess where I’m going next September?  I’ll give you a few hints:

1. It’s warm.

2. It’s beautiful.

3. There’s a boat involved.

4. There are palm trees and hibiscus and monstera deliciosa and frangipani.

5. We’ll have sewing machines.

Give up?


The 2015 Aloha Quilting Cruise will depart from Vancouver BC on September 19th 2015 and ply the seas to the Islands of Hawaii and then come back to Vancouver.  For 15 days, we’ll enjoy life aboard the ms. Star Princess and let the 1200 staff aboard cater to our every wish.  That, and it includes EIGHT DAYS of quilting!

I’m pairing up with Brandy Lynn Maslowski for this cruise. Brandy Lynn is an energetic and fun teacher, and host of Canadian Quilt Talk. We have some very exciting new classes planned for you. I’ll be doing a furtherance of the Mock Mola class, and an overview of the State of the Hexes – two of my very favourite passions!  Brandy Lynn has some very interesting artsy classes planned, too. I’ll be bringing my guitar (of course!) and will be writing at least one new song aboard, maybe even with you!

Brandy Lynn is in the middle of securing sponsorships for this cruise, and she has confirmed that we will have sewing machines, thanks to Janome, and lots of thread, thanks to Aurifil.

We’ll be announcing our classes soon.  To keep up to date on developments please visit the new blog: Aloha Quilt Cruise.  You can sign up to Follow this blog so that you get regular email updates on our plans.

This is a great idea if someone in your life wanted to give you a last-minute Christmas present (and they can come too!)

Our Fall Tour

November 22, 2014

We’re safely home from our travels for the year, and I’m back in my own sewing room again!  Before I forget everything, here’s a quick recap from our travels since September. Okay, it’s not so quick…… make yourself a cuppa and settle in.

The beginning of the tour was a stop to help open a store in Montana – they had just moved and we were able to provide some entertainment to help celebrate the occasion.  This appearance was thanks to one of my Block of the Month people (I have 35 people at various stages of making their own version of the Star and Plume quilt!).  Mary has been a huge fan, and it was great to meet her there!

Mary took a good look at the original Star and Plume quilt while we were there.

Mary took a good look at the original Star and Plume quilt while we were there.

Our drive through Michigan started what would be an incredible month of amazing fall colours, thanks to the maple trees turning.  This is my favourite time of year, and living on the west coast of Canada means I don’t get to see them as often as I used to.

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Our concert in Whitby was at the home of my second cousin, Norah.  Her grandfather was my Great Uncle Jim, about whom I wrote the song “My Grandfather’s Brother”.  I had brought the signature quilt that was given to him by “grateful parishioners” way back in 1905 in Depot Harbour, Ontario (near Parry Sound), and sang the song.  I was very happy that I had several close family members in the audience (I hardly EVER get to sing for them!) It is a very special memory to see the look of joy on my brother’s face as he listened to me sing.

My cousin Norah and I with her grandfather's quilt.

My cousin Norah and I with her grandfather’s quilt.

Our next gig was for the Windsor Quilters’ Guild, along with a Mock Mola class.  We stayed in the most amazing Log Cabin Quilting Retreats house.  There’s a longarm machine in the basement, two whole design walls, and lots of bedrooms.  They can sleep 8 for a retreat and provide the most amazing food (a happy addition to any retreat!).

Emeryville quilt retreat

Emeryville quilt retreat

The steps to the basement studio were wonderful – covered with painted quilt blocks on all surfaces!

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The Windsor guild is fairly large, and we had to use a sound system to reach the back of the room.  I had an avid class for my Mock Mola workshop, and they created some lovely pieces.

Terry's Dragon

Terry’s Dragon, not quite finished.

I love the wonky bricks!

I love these wonky bricks!

A mandala from the symbol for Mother.

A mandala from the symbol for Mother.

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Love these swirls! All done and ready to bind.

We left Windsor to head north for Canadian Thanksgiving, which was on the weekend of October 11th. We celebrated with our friend Gisela and her family, up at her cottage on the French River, just south of Sudbury, helping her close the cottage for the year.  We had a WONDERFUL time!!!



The fall colours continued as we journeyed towards Ottawa. We had three shows there. The first was for a seniors’ care facility in the West End; a friend’s mom lives there, and our show was her gift to her mother.  The second was for John’s brother Steve, at the Woodlawn community centre.  We transformed the sports room into a concert hall!  And the third I have already blogged about, when I gave Dean and Ruth one of my quilts.

Our last gig in southern Ontario was at the Lindsay Creative Quilters Guild, just outside of Peterborough.  What a big guild!  There were about 120 in attendance, and it was a great audience. There’s a new contest in town for people to decorate their homes for Hallowe’en – we saw only a few houses decorated (and it was all in the evening, so I didn’t get any pictures), but when we go back next year, hopefully we’ll see more!

Lindsay Creative Quilters Guild

Lindsay Creative Quilters Guild

We’ll be back again next year to do a class for them. As soon as they saw my quilts, they all wanted to learn about Mock Mola. With any luck, we’ll again be able to stay again with Sharron and John.  She has a quilt shop in her basement, and it was amazing to wake up in the morning and open the door to FABRIC!

We performed at 6 house concerts during this tour.  A house concert is like a “real” concert, only better!  Someone with a lot of chairs and at least 20 friends throws a party.  They are often potlucks, with people bringing what they want to drink.  The bonus is: they get a personal concert!  We love singing at house concerts – they are very intimate, we meet some lovely people, and we often stay overnight in the house after.

In Sault Ste Marie we were hosted by new friends, but we soon found lots in common with David and Susan, as well as having some wonderful synchronicities with audience members. I sang “My Grandfather’s Brother” and there was someone there who had grown up in Depot Harbour, where the quilt came from! Someone else was a relative of Edna Woods, who was one of the ladies in the “Quilt of Names” story from WWII! The Northern connections were rampant.

From there, we headed further west and north to Dryden Ontario, a place we generally just drive through. This was the first time we’d really stopped there, and I’m glad we did. Our venue was The Centre (Dryden Regional Training and Cultural Centre), which was built to provide multiple functions to this small city.  There’s a huge performance hall which can be tailored to almost any size of audience.  But for our show, we opted for an acoustic performance in the lobby – it was lovely to sing there, with the vaulted ceiling and glass on two sides.

Lobby at The Centre in Dryden

Lobby at The Centre in Dryden

I also taught two classes for the guild, and had a very enjoyable couple of days with them.

The Mock Mola class - the red and white quilt is 2-sided!

The Mock Mola class – the red and white quilt is 2-sided. Both the sun and the pumpkin (2nd row) used 3 colours.

Once in a while we get adventures to go along with our travels.  Because we were going to spend another night in Dryden before heading further west, we  were invited to the surprise 50th birthday for one of my students – Mary (who made the birch trees in the front row above) – at a hunting and fishing camp just out of town.  It was so good to be there, and Mary was very surprised to see us!

Here's Mary cutting her birthday cake!

Here’s Mary cutting her birthday cake!

We stop in Fort Frances whenever we go through the area, because I have a first cousin who lives there.  We last sang for the Cabin Country Quilt Guild way back in 2001, so we had a lot of catching up to do!  They put on an amazing display in the lobby of the Zion Lutheran church, and then filled the pews for the concert. It was in Fort Frances that I learned a new term I hadn’t heard before:  “dainties”.  In Australia, they’re called “slice” or “pudding” or “a plate” (as in “bring a plate”). On the Prairies of Canada, they’re called “dainties” – not-too-large pieces of sweet desserts perfect for après-concert get-togethers.  It was very helpful to know about this, as we headed west.

John here with a couple of early arrivers, looking at all the quilts!

John here with a couple of early arrivals, looking at all the quilts!

I remember the first time I went on tour from Ottawa heading west back in 1985.  I was SOOOO excited that I was finally going to be touring outside of Ontario, and couldn’t WAIT to get into Manitoba and parts west.  It took 3 days of long drives before I crossed that provincial boundary.  Ontario is a BIG place!

We did a small house concert in Winnipeg for friends. There was some serious show and tell beforehand including one of my students from a few years ago who brought the quilt she made.

Leona brought her piece to show me.

Leona brought her piece to show me in Winnipeg.

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Marg Moore showed her award-winning coat.

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A gorgeous Stack and Whack wall hanging.


Then we headed out into the wilds of southern Manitoba to visit one of Canada’s top quilters and teachers: Judy Morningstar.  Judy has been inviting us to stop by for a visit for years now, and finally we had the time to do so.  Her enticement was that I could try out her longarm machine!  While we were there, she invited a number of quilting friends over for our last house concert on the tour.

The night we arrived Judy and Bill took us off to a country supper in Hartney, a half-hour drive north.  This is a prairie tradition, a major fundraiser for the community as well as a great way to see your friends and neighbours. I think everyone was wondering who the heck we were! For a measly $13 we got an incredible turkey and roast beef dinner with lots of salads (including the ubiquitous jellied salad the Prairies are so famous for, thanks to my friend Connie Kaldor’s stories) and PIE! In the fall there are lots of these suppers and everyone goes to all of them. It takes an army of volunteers to carry it off, and community spirit is never stronger than at these events.

The next day was all about quilting.  Judy and I started pulling fabric from her substantial stash before breakfast. I decided on an artsy piece using little squares appliqued (by longarm machine) onto a gorgeous hand-day that Judy made.

One wall of Judy's stash - impressive!

One wall of Judy’s stash – impressive!

Before lunch I was happily quilting for the first time on Judy’s longarm.  Amazing, fun, fast, effective. No issues at all.  Which wall will I tear out of our house to fit this machine? That’s what I want to know…..

I actually look like I know what I'm doing!!!

I actually look like I know what I’m doing!!!

The piece was finished by 4pm, just time enough to get cleaned up and get ready for the house concert that evening!

Judy and her new student.

Judy and her new student.

Thanks, Judy for your great instruction and for the chance to raid your stash!  I look forward to seeing you again – we promise we’ll stop in next time we’re driving through.

Our last gig on the tour (yes, I’m almost finished this huge missive!) was in Neepawa Manitoba. No, we’d never been there before either. We sang in the Viscount Cultural Centre, in the gallery area, surrounded by the FAN (Fibre Arts Network) touring quilt show.  I recognized lots of names of people I know: Correen Zerr, Pippa Moore, Margie Davidson, Brandy Lynn Maslowski – great to see this wonderful work.

Part of the FAN exhibit in Neepawa

Part of the FAN exhibit in Neepawa

For our last gig, we had about 30 from the local guild.  They enjoyed themselves (as did we) and gave us our last standing ovation of the tour.  It was a great way to finish!

The only snow we saw on the whole tour was the next day, driving out of Manitoba.

011 more snow med

We stopped to see Shirley at Shirley’s Sewing Room in Moosomin Saskatchewan as well as Katja at Katja’s Quilt Shoppe in Kamloops.  These are two shops (and shop owners) whom we’ve known forever – Shirley tells everyone she knew me before I was the Singing Quilter!  Which is true; I was touring Trilogy’s Christmas show when I first met her, a year before I released the first quilting cd.  I love both of these shops, and make sure I support them whenever we’re passing through.  It was thrilled that Katja was celebrating the release of her first book, and it’s about one of my favourite topics: HEXAGONS!

Katja with her new book

Katja with her new book – The New Hexagon: 52 Blocks to English Paper Piece

One last bit of adventure on this trip, and then I’ll stop.  We visited Anna Hergert, another famous Canadian quilter and quilt judge, on our way through Saskatchewan.  Anna and her husband live in the very beautiful Qu’Appelle Valley, just north of Moose Jaw, and we were delighted to spend a night with them. She has an amazing studio, overlooking the river.

Anna Hergert's studio

Anna Hergert’s studio

Okay – I think I’m done with the wrap-up. All this happened within a month and a half.  Happily, it wasn’t a longer tour!  Thank you for reading this far, and I hope I haven’t put you to sleep!


Fall Tour Stop in Ottawa

October 20, 2014

We are mid-tour, and it’s going very well.  We are heading north and west now from the Peterborough area (Lindsay), and are heading towards home eventually.

Yesterday we sang a house concert for my old friend Dean Verger.  He used to run Rasputins (restaurant and folk club) and when I lived in Ottawa, I used to sing and hang out there often.  It was great to see him again.  A couple of cool things happened.

Firstly, my old friend Janet Irwin arrived.  She is the person who started this whole part of my life.  In 1991 she hired me to write music for a play about quilting, which was presented as part of Quilt Canada there.  Little did either of us know how, after 8 years, I would become a seriously addicted quilter, but also write more songs and release a CD of songs entirely about quilting!  It was SO GOOD to sing for her yesterday and have a chance to catch up on her doings. She is still directing plays, and I’m still singing and writing!

Me with Janet Irwin

Me with Janet Irwin

After the show was over, we got a few minutes to spend with Dean and Ruth to thank them for hosting the concert, and to catch up on the Ottawa folk music news. They told me how much they loved the quilt we had behind us for the show.  This quilt was on the cover of the Singing Quilter Songbook, and was inspired by my friend Rosemary Stieg in Pennsylvania who is as crazy as I am with little bits of fabric.  She taught me how to do this postage stamp pattern in 8×8″ blocks.  I pieced it in hotel rooms as we traveled several years ago.  Sometimes we show it in concert, but usually it stays at home.  My cousin has been taking care of it for the last few months in Whitby.

So when Dean and Ruth obviously fell in love with it, I decided to give it to them!

Ruth and Dean and their new quilt!

Ruth and Dean and their new quilt!

Do they look happy?

We have just finished our work in Lindsay, so now we are driving towards our next gigs in Sault Ste Marie, Dryden, Winnipeg and Neepawa.  See you there?

Road Trip to eastern Ontario – Almonte

September 12, 2014

We’re at the beginning of our fall touring and have a few days off before our first gig in Cornwall Ontario.  John and I had time for a visit to Almonte, which is just outside of Ottawa, to see some galleries and the Mississippi Valley Textile Museum.  We’ve been stopping by this charming little town for years, but have never had time to visit the museum.

The main street is lined with galleries, antique shops and cafes all housed in historic buildings.  Almonte was a woolen mill town, thanks to the Mississippi River (not the same one as down south!) flowing through it.  The river drops off rather beautifully just in the middle of town, which leads to lots of power opportunities.  Hence, the mills that dotted its banks.

A river runs through Almonte

A river runs through Almonte

On the main drag, there is a life-sized bronze statue celebrating an important local:  the inventor of basketball!  James Naismith not only invented it here in Almonte, but he was also in attendance at the Summer Olympic Games when it was first included in the sports played.  What an accomplishment.

James Naismith, Inventor of basketball

James Naismith, Inventor of basketball

We visited General Fine Craft Art and Design where our friend Chandler Swain works and exhibits. There was a wonderful exhibit of Manitoban artists.  Then we headed down the road to the Textile Museum in one of the old mill buildings.

014 Textile Museum small

Everyone around the museum was very busy – on Saturday and Sunday they hold their 19th annual Fibrefest, which features 50 fibre arts vendors, 20 vintage wear vendors and 10 button vendors, as well as exhibits and events like a lamb race!  I’m sorry we won’t be able to stick around for that. If you’re in eastern Ontario on September 13th and 14th (2014), you’ll enjoy the visit.

The main floor of the museum is reserved for special exhibits.  On this day, it featured a wonderful exhibit from Japan:

027 Reiko Sudo plus Nuno exhibit sign small

This exhibit was designed to fit into the space.  All different techniques of working with many different fibres, and each piece was wrapped around one of the columns in the room.  They drew me in to see the exquisite detail on each piece.

A portion of the exhibit, displayed on the columns

A portion of the exhibit, displayed on the columns

At the end of the room was a wall of touchable samples, describing the techniques used for each piece.

025 touchable textile techniques small

Please touch

It was amazing, how many technques I’d never heard of before – lots of weaving, some rust dyeing, machine embroidery, acid use to eat away denim, origami, and even one featuring real goose feathers embedded between layers of fine fabric. It was beautiful.

Upstairs is a permanent exhibit well worth visiting. It takes use through the stages from sheep shearing to fabric, using the machines they used to use at the mill.  It’s a well organized exhibit, with lots of videos (narrated by my old friend “Reverend Ken” Ramsden!) explaining the process.

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Carding Machine

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Teasle Napper

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Old commercial loom

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Lots of interesting machines

The exhibits here change regularly but not the wool section. To plan your visit, the events calendar is here.

I think it’s worth spending a whole day in Almonte if you get the chance.  We didn’t set foot in any of the antique shops, nor the two quilt shops!!!!  Not bad, for a small town. I’m glad we stopped.

Ask and Ye Shall Find

August 13, 2014

I’ve been spending part of the summer here in Victoria writing up new patterns for my Star and Plume Block of the Month.  It’s getting down to some really challenging blocks now – I’ve left the really hard ones till the end – and I’m spending a lot of time working on the best way to get the accuracy I need for some of them. 

Here are three of them:

Beg and Borrow

Beg and Borrow





At least part of these blocks (if not all) has to be done using foundation piecing with freezer paper.  And it means tracing the templates (sometimes 8 times each!) onto the freezer paper. It’s tedious.

I found myself wishing for a freezer paper I could put through my inkjet printer to save me all that tracing time (not to mention that each time I trace I get sloppier about follow the lines!). I’m told that I can actually just cut a normal piece of freezer paper up to 8 1/2″ x 11″ and put it through, but I haven’t tried that yet.  My freezer paper curls a lot when I cut it, and my printer is rather picky about that sort of thing.

So I was very happy to find printable freezer paper in my local quilt shop (as well as on-line). I haven’t tried it yet, but will as soon as I get back to writing more patterns.  I think it’s going to be a huge time saver!

I’m so glad that someone else thinks like I do, and comes up with things I need before I know I need them!

How about you?  Have you ever wished for something only to find out it already exists?  Or: better – have you ever wished for something, realized it DOESN’T exist, and set about rectifying that situation?  If only I had figured this out about printable freezer paper earlier……

Don’t Forget to Look Behind

July 16, 2014

We’ve returned home from our travels, and are recharging for our fall touring schedule. It was a great 3 1/2 month tour. We met so many wonderful quilters, saw some wonderful work (I live for Show & Tell!), and even got to be tourists here and there. We took some great ferries (the new one across from Portland Maine to Yarmouth Nova Scotia was notable), and saw lots of scenery.

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Mount Robson, British Columbia

Many years ago when I was embarking on a drive around the Cabot Trail in Cape Breton Island (Nova Scotia), I received the best piece of travel advice I’ve ever heard.  “Don’t forget to look behind”.  

Usually when you travel a road, you only take it in one direction.  As Robert Frost wrote: “Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back” (from The Road Not Taken). If you don’t look back, you miss half the journey!

John and I constantly remind each other to look in the rear view mirror, especially when we’re going through a beautiful area: mountains, sea, prairies.  The light is different, the view is entirely changed behind. 

It occurs to me that this is a good idea for other areas of life as well. Looking behind shows me a few things:

How far I’ve come
Just look at that first quilt I made!  I’m so much better now!,
That song was the best thing I’d ever written, and I was certain I’d never write a better one – how boring it was!  It needed a chorus, at the very least.

What I’ve learned
Thank goodness I’ve figured out how to mitre corners!
Look at that binding!
I’ve finally figured out how to SHOW not TELL in a song lyric.

Where I’ve come from
I remember going to Bali to buy that fabric
I wrote that song while I was taking jazz guitar lessons with Paul in Ottawa – what a time that was!

Who I am
I like this kind of structure in my songs: AABABCAB
I’m easily bored, which leads me to try new techniques a lot.
I love colour and contrast in my quilts.

In quilts, as well as songs, I can reminisce when I see them/sing them again. I love visiting quilts I’ve given away because I can indulge myself in those memories.  I know that each of the songs I’ve written and quilts I’ve made were the best I could do at the time, and I celebrate the steps forward that each of these projects represent.

In looking back, I can also begin to see what makes a “Cathy quilt” or a “Cathy song”, but only by seeing the body of work together.  And I learn to see who “Cathy” is.

I’ve heard so many people be embarrassed by their earlier works – apologetic, actually.  But that misses the point for me.  As creative people, we don’t start out with excellence.  Ability comes with doing.  I’ve heard it said that it’s not possible to practice singing – either you’re singing, or you’re not, so I don’t say “ability comes with practice”. If you need 10,000 hours to achieve excellence in any job/hobby/skill, I’m still working on it. That doesn’t mean I can’t do wonderful stuff in the meantime, while working up to that masterpiece. Or two.

“Someday if I live to tell
I want to do just one thing well
And give myself a bit of peace
When I finally make my masterpiece.”
(From “Masterpiece” on “In the Heart of a Quilt” cd)

I’ve been keeping a personal journal for over 30 years.  These days I don’t write in it as much as I once did, but it’s there to show me how my thoughts and actions have gone during that time of my life, what I was concerned about, and sometimes even what was going on in the world around me. I re-read it once in a while. I helps me keep things in perspective. I don’t know where I’ll be in another 10 or 20 years, but I hope I’ll never forget to keep looking behind.



May 26, 2014

We’ve had a couple of days off between a class at the Proper Bostonian Quilt Guild and our concert for them on Wednesday, so we decided to take a B&B in town and be tourists for the duration!

Yesterday, we took a Trolley Tour around town, to get the “lay of the land”, so to speak, and learned a lot about the history of Boston, and some surprising things about it.  It’s Memorial Day weekend here, and I think everyone within a 400 mile radius is here! The tours were very busy, and their schedules were messed up by a morning road race that limited the accessibility to some roads downtown.

We saw some interesting places before we got off the trolley to walk a block over to Faneuil Hall.  There is a pedestrian mall there and we grabbed some lunch and watched the buskers.  The young girl with the guitar and sound system was replaced by Al (“Alakazam”) from Sydney.  He was really good at getting everyone involved in the show, including four guys to hold the pole steady and two more that he used to stand on to get up there.  This was the ultimate trick, for which he received a HUGE response!  I hope we’ve helped him to pay the bills while he’s here in the States.

Al from Sydney Australia at the height of his busker act!

Al from Sydney Australia at the height (12feet) of his busker act! Yes, he’s juggling knives.

There were people EVERYWHERE!  Lots of food and souvenirs too.  There is a lot of pride in Boston these days after the Boston Marathon bombing, and that is reflected in their t-shirts.

Boston Strong t-shirts for children.

Boston Strong t-shirts for children.

Faneuil Hall has been the meeting place for Bostonians for well over 200 years. It is where voters (read: male property-owners) assembled when they didn’t like the excessive tax the British levied in the 1700s, leading to the Boston Tea Party and eventually, the war against Britain. It is where Emancipationists held meetings against slavery, followed by Suffragists to give women the vote. It’s a very important edifice in the history of the city, and still is used, and not just by tourists. It was originally built so that the town wouldn’t protest against having the market downstairs.

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

At my class on Saturday, Barbara made a Mock Mola quilt using the Boston skyline as her inspiration, so I already knew about the Custom House Tower and its iconic shape. Here’s John’s picture of it, peeking out from behind the tree.

Custom House tower

Custom House Tower

We finished our tour across the river in Cambridge, where we got some nice skyline pictures.

Boston from Cambridge

Boston from Cambridge

It’s a really impressive city, and it was great to explore it a little bit – there’s so much more to see!

Today, we visited the Museum of Fine Arts here in Boston. Because it is Memorial Day, admission was free, and we expected large numbers of people, so we arrived before opening.  The lineup was long anyway!

The lineup before opening!

The lineup before opening!

The main reason we went was to see the Pilgrim/Roy Quilt Exhibition.  It was highly recommended by the gals in the class on Saturday, and I already knew about Gerald Roy – he was the auctioneer at the AQS Paducah show’s quilt auction!

It’s not every day that a collection of quilts makes it into a proper art museum, and it was very exciting to be able to attend.

Quilts and Color exhibit banners at entrance

Quilts and Color exhibit banners at entrance

It was organized like no other show I’ve seen – in terms of colour and technique (ie, all the log cabin quilts were together).  The first part of the show featured complementary coloured quilts – ie, red and green – and they were spectacular.  The collection was put together by two people interested in art, rather than quilting per se, and it led to a different sort of approach.

Very intent people looking at these wonderful quilts.

Very intent people looking at these wonderful quilts.

This is part of the log cabin section - almost every way of putting together log cabins that you can think of!

This is part of the log cabin section – almost every way of putting together log cabins that you can think of!

I was a bit disappointed to only see one hexagon quilt (you know I like hexies!) – but it was lovely.  There was a HUGE amount of cheddar/orange in a lot of these quilts, often to help soften the red/green colours.

028 only one hexagon quilt small

They painted a whole wall orange to showcase this quilt!

You could tell the descriptions of some of these quilts were not written by quilters.  One Amish square in a square quilt said that the joy of it was the play of colours against each other.  For me, the joy was ENTIRELY the magnificent quilting that she did on it!

Gorgeous quilting in this detail of the quilt.

Gorgeous quilting in this detail of the quilt.

There was much discussion in the write-up for this next quilt about careful placement of analogous colours, which is all true – but NOTHING about the very obvious, absolutely intentional (IMHO) “Humility Block” (the blue one) smack dab in the middle of the quilt – the four-patch in the centre of the block is turned the wrong way! I would think that would be an interesting story to tell to non-quilters.

Snail's Trail - can you see the humility block?

Snail’s Trail – can you see the humility block?

One more quilt that stopped me in my tracks.  I have never seen a “Bull’s Eye and Bars” quilt before – have you ever seen this pattern?  The picture is taken from the side so you can see how dimensional the blocks are.

Bull's Eye and Bars

Bull’s Eye and Bars

All that being said, it is a magnificent display and I’m soooo glad we went!

I was in the gift shop buying quilting earrings (there was lots of quilt-related stuff there) when a woman announced that she was taking a group up for a talk about a quilt upstairs – made by Harriet Powers!  I had NO IDEA that one of the only two extant Harriet Powers story quilts was in Boston!  How totally exciting to see it in person, after having seen them both in books. This quilt only makes it on display once every 5 years, so we were very lucky. It was made in 1898. There are stains on it, but it is in remarkably good condition, for its age and history.

Harriet Powers story quilt

Harriet Powers story quilt

Believe it or not, some of this quilt has been made by machine. The applique and quilting are done originally by hand, but some of the pieces are outlined with a sewing machine. I was very very surprised.

The elephant has been hand appliqued, then outlined by machine in light thread.

The elephant has been hand appliqued, then outlined by machine in light thread.

We spent another few hours in the Museum – for lunch, we were serenaded by a live Salsa band!

There was also line dancing in the Courtyard

There was also line dancing in the Courtyard

I also took bunches of pictures of textures and interesting pieces for inspiration later. How about this one: a crocheted cantaloupe!

Crocheted cantaloupe

Crocheted cantaloupe

And a pentagon made of mirror strips.

Pentagon of mirrors

Pentagon of mirrors – quilting pattern?

Once you start looking at the world through quilt-coloured glasses, you’ll be able to find designs everywhere you look!

I will leave you with the best line of the day. (It was very interesting to hear people who knew nothing about quilts in the exhibit – I could have spent all day, just lingering around.) As she was looking at a quilt with her husband, a woman said: “Do you think we could hang one of OUR quilts on the wall in the bedroom?”

Obviously, the Pilgrim/Roy Exhibit “Quilts and Color” made an impression on her, and she started to think of her quilt as something more like art and less like a blanket…..  Job done, people!

A story from the Sew Busy Quilt Guild in Mayfield NY

May 19, 2014

This afternoon we sang a matinee for not just quilters here in Mayfield (just west of Albany NY).  It was organized by the Sew Busy Quilt Guild and they were able to set up a lovely day in the Mayfield Central Presbyterian Church here and invite the community along to see. We didn’t have a serious time limit (unlike most guild shows), so I added a few extra songs and stories and we ended up on stage for an hour and a half!  Perhaps they were just getting antsy, but they did stand up at the end for us!  Thank you everyone for a great afternoon!

Because we were in a Presbyterian Church and had the time, I decided to sing “My Grandfather’s Brother”, a song about my own family.  It’s about a signature quilt with 833 signatures that was used to raise funds to build my Great Uncle Jim’s first church, up near Parry Sound, Ontario. I don’t sing the song often, because the story is personal, and there are better stories and songs out there, but today I felt like doing it.  Because it’s not in the normal repertoire, my introduction wasn’t cast in stone, and I found myself saying that I find it ironic that the quilt lives on in its flimsy state after over 100 years, but the church that it helped build is long gone. The crumbled bricks and mortar of the church are in a ghost town now.

After the concert, a woman whom I’d met before the show (a member of the quilt guild and of the church) told me how wonderful that story was for her.  The church had been recently rebuilt after a fire destroyed the previous old church that stood on the same land. She and other members of the church had presented the minister with a quilt just weeks before the fire, and it was hanging on the wall of the building when it burned.  The next day the firemen came out of the remains with a grey soggy mess in their hands and they opened it up on the lawn – the quilt. It did not clean up perfectly – there are still some red bleed marks from the redwork embroidery on the quilt – but, considering its story, it is in amazingly good shape. Part of its design incorporates signature blocks from the congregation.

This church is also gone, but the quilt, in its flimsy state, lives on.

There was such synchronicity between how I told the story of my Great Uncle Jim’s quilt and her story about the church we had just sung in.  I had to share it with you! I’m sorry, I didn’t take a picture of her quilt, but here’s my Great Uncle Jim’s quilt, with the 833 embroidered signatures.

My Great Uncle Jim's quilt, that I wrote the song about.

My Great Uncle Jim’s quilt, that I wrote the song about. It is dated 1905.

There were lots of good stories today. One of the husbands let me know about a Barn Quilt that we should see tomorrow on our way back to the Turnpike. Inside that barn there are more Barn Quilts are being made.  He met the fellow making them in the local Lowe’s home improvement  store in the paint department – two men in a hardware store talking quilting!!! It’s such a great image.

Tomorrow we drive back to Connecticut for a concert and Mock Mola class in Simsbury on Wednesday and Thursday.  Our last US dates on this tour are in Boston on the 24th (Mock Mola class) and a concert on Wednesday May 28th there. We’re definitely nearing the end of this wonderful tour! But we still have quite a few miles left to go. The hexagons are going very well.

Paducah – the rest of the days (a bit late)

May 14, 2014

I love the title of the last post:  Paducah – Day One!  As if I was going to have time to blog every day that we were there! LOL

We had a great visit, and saw lots of friends. Here are a few pictures from the rest of the event.

I finally got to see the Tentmakers of Cairo in the flesh. My friend Jenny Bowker discovered them and has done such a great job introducing them to the world. The work is stunning.

I finally got to see the Tentmakers of Cairo in the flesh. My friend Jenny Bowker discovered them and has done such a great job introducing them to the world. The work is stunning.

This is Tarek Abdelhay, one of the Tentmakers of Cairo, working on a new piece, surrounded by curious applique-rs.

This is Tarek Abdelhay, one of the Tentmakers of Cairo, working on a new piece, surrounded by curious applique-rs trying to figure out how he does it.

We attended a wonderful lecture by Philippa Naylor about her life as an award-winning quilter.

We attended a wonderful lecture by our friend Philippa Naylor about her life as an award-winning quilter. Yes, that’s her award-winning quilt behind us.


A quick visit with Sue Patten - who inspired the writing of "You Can Quilt That Out".

A quick visit with very popular longarmer Sue Patten – who inspired the writing of “You Can Quilt That Out”.

That night, we attended the Ricky Tims night. It ended with the most incredible wall of his quilts, filling the stage!

That night, we attended the Ricky Tims night. It ended with the most incredible wall of his quilts, filling the stage!

We had a great weekend.  Then we drove back to Delaware to continue our own touring.  More about our adventures later…..



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