Archive for the ‘Quilting’ Category

A Trip of a Lifetime – Part One (Australia)

June 13, 2017

It’s been ever so long since you last heard from me!  Sorry about that – as you’ll see below, it’s been very busy. John and I have recently returned from a trip of a lifetime, and because it has some quilting content, I have decided to tell you all about it.

We were away for 3 months in all – if you’ll remember, we are no longer doing our long driving tours, but that doesn’t mean we don’t want to travel any more! We started with 5 weeks in Australia, seeing good friends from Sydney to Brisbane, Canberra to Melbourne and Adelaide, followed by a flight to Darwin and another flight to Perth.  We then joined a 21 day guided tour in South Africa, followed by three weeks in Europe and the UK.

The original reason for this trip was to help John celebrate his birthday in Australia.  This birthday lasted for at least a month, since he kept getting more cake every time we turned around! On the day itself, we were in Tamworth, the country music capital of Australia, and we had to get this picture of all of us (we met Aussie friends who live in BC) in front of the famous Golden Guitar!


Some quilty highlights (not much singing involved in this trip) included giving away a new quilt from fabric that our friend Barb gave me years ago to make into “a pillow or something”.  I have a new theory: the longer it takes to give back a piece someone asks you to make, the nicer the final product needs to be!  The “pillow or something” ended up as a medium sized wall hanging!  It was hard to find more unicorn fabric that wasn’t “girly”, but John found some on line, and I was able to make this.

006 Elanora with Barb and Dennis ONeil (4) quilt presentation

I was happy with how it turned out, and Barb was too.

We visited friends in Brisbane, and headed back down the highway through lots of rain.  One should never complain about rain in Australia EVER, but we ran into one flooded out highway and had to divert inland to find another way south – we still had trouble, and are lucky we didn’t float away!

009 drive south through rain (3) med

It was after we left that the cyclone hit, and there was flooding everywhere. We’re lucky to have gotten through when we did.

The rain followed us to Canberra, but didn’t interfere in our busy social schedule! One night we got together with quilty friends there, including Michelle Law, who used my pattern of 1/2″ hexagons to make her own version of my “Seven Garden Maze”.  I love what she’s done with it – and she deserved to receive the ribbon at the last quilt show for it.

014 SCQ dinner (4) Michelles 7 Garden Maze

Michelle, Donna, Jenny (the famous Jenny Bowker!) and Kathryn are all extraordinary quilters and good friends, and I’m happy that I got to see them all together in a small group.

014 SCQ dinner (13) canberra

We had some amazing show and tell that evening, as well as a wonderful meal.

Our travels took us on down to Bega, Bairnsdale, and Melbourne. We had the chance to wander about downtown Melbourne, around Federation Square with our friend Judy. We really wanted to see the graffiti alley, just across the road from the Square. We had been seeing graffiti everywhere in the city – they seem to really encourage it.  Some of it is horrible, like any other graffiti that most cities paint over.  And then we got to Hosier Lane!

019 Melbourne (16) Hosier Lane baby hand

Just amazing.

From Melbourne we decided to repeat one of our favourite drives in the world: The Great Ocean Road!

Cloudy still, but it didn’t rain on us that day.  By the time we got to Adelaide, the rain had left us behind, thankfully. In Gawler we visited friends who took us out to an Aboriginal celebration of the great Murray River that night.  These people had travelled the length of the river doing these celebrations along the way, and this was the last one, at the Murray River mouth.  We were quite honoured to be there.

003a Goolwa aboriginal celebration (18)

Our friends in Adelaide live in the Hills and have lots of wildlife around their house. I’m very happy with this picture of the iconic kookaburra who is one of many who visits them every day.

007 Adelaide (9) kookaburra

I was very lucky to be in town for the South Australia Quilters’ Guild meeting!  Raelene and I went after dinner, and it was great to see some familiar faces in the crowd.  We’ve sung for them a couple of times, and I got up as “Show and Tell” and sang a song for them. I have no quilts with me, so I have to just sing!


006a Quilters Guild of South Australia (4)

They had a huge show and tell of quilts – if I remember correctly, these were the result of the mystery quilt bags – multiple designs with different fabrics.  For $40 you get a bag and make up the quilt. If you have a group of 20 making them, the organizers will come over and teach the pattern for free (and bring chocolate too)!

This is a big guild, and I was interested to see how they were keeping everything fun and new for their members. As a guest, for example, I was whisked to the front of the line to sign in and given a private tour of the room by one of the executive members. Nice touch.

We flew up to Darwin for a few days.  This is where I wrote the first quilting CD, and I have some very close friends there.  We stayed with Alison, a marvelous quilter, who showed me a couple of her new quilts.  The circular hexie one is a pattern by Geta Grama that I’ve been thinking about making some day.

008 Darwin (1)008 Darwin (12) Alisons Geta Grama quilt009 darwin (1) at paperbark woman

I was thrilled to hear that Paperbark Woman – a shop that specializes in Aboriginal fabrics – has re-opened after a long time being closed.  Lenore is the one who talked M&S Textiles into making Aboriginal fabrics, and introduced them to some of the artists. Her whole shop is full of the fabrics, and many of them I hadn’t seen before. Yes, I came home with some of them!  The stories about the designs are included when you buy the fabric, too.

One last stop in Australia – Perth for 5 days to catch our breath and prepare for the next leg of the tour: South Africa!  Our friends Andy and Vicki had this on their counter: I have never before seen Vegemite flavoured chips!!! They were pretty good, too.

010 Perth Vegemite bagel chips

We spent a day as tourists out at Rottnest Island – never been there before! This is a destination for vacationers – lots of lovely beaches, and fun stuff to do, but not overly developed. People go there and rent cottages for a week at a time.  It’s a fairly long ferry ride out, and we hired bicycles to wander around the island.

The island is famous for one of smallest marsupials in Australia: the quokka.  There are signs everywhere to keep away from them, to not feed them, but that doesn’t stop the visitors.  I kept thinking what would happen if people do that in North America – any wild animal you could snuggle up to here would bite you!

011 Rottnest Island (15) quokka

The island is called Rottnest because the first visitors saw these animals and thought they were very large rats. They are very cute, and they don’t bite. This is where they live:

011 Rottnest Island (26)

I have obviously left out quite a bit from this section of the trip – we had a lot of wonderful visits with good friends, ate a lot of good food and drank a lot of good wine. I’m going to continue in the second installment about the jewel of this trip: three amazing weeks in South Africa.

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.



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.

003 small


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!

014 Emeryville stairs small

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.

002 swirls small

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.

017 marg moore and award winning coat small

Marg Moore showed her award-winning coat.

018 stack and whack small

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!


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……


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.

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