Wednesday, December 29, 2010

At Rest

Mom passed away this week. I'll be taking
some time off to spend with family.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Pumpkin Extravaganza

Come the cool fall weather, I get a real hankering for pumpkin. A slice or two of pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving isn’t nearly enough to satisfy my seasonal craving, so I’m always on the look-out for alternative treats.

My friend, Linda, brought me an extravaganza of pumpkin goodies recently: cream cheese frosted pumpkin bars, muffins, cookies, and whoopee pies, each delicious and rich with pumpkiny flavor. To give proper credit, her daughter, Emma, did all the baking. Can you imagine how good their house must have smelled?

Here’s an autumn inspired doll quilt with a pumpkin theme. The pattern is Pumpkin Seed, a slight variation of the popular Orange Peel design. In this case, the appliquéd segments are a bit narrower than the more robust Orange Peel.

18” x 21”

My friend and former QBU colleague, Mary Radke, made the quilt top for me, using Cherrywood hand dyed cotton fabrics. Mary machine appliquéd each pumpkin seed segment to a background square. I hand quilted, outlining each segment and continuing the pumpkin seed design into the border. The design turned the corners nicely at the top of the quilt, but since the bottom corners were unresolved, I filled the space with the date of completion.

Have a great Thanksgiving. I’m very thankful for you!

Monday, November 1, 2010

To Everything There Is A Season

These are the Autumn Purple Ash trees in front of our house, as they looked a couple weeks ago. Their peak fall color is short lived, so I‘m glad we managed to capture it. Just a few days after these pictures were taken, the blustery weather left them with nary a leaf.

There’s been a flurry of change and emotion within our home, as well. Both our sons moved out of the house this fall and I’m struggling with an“empty nest.” For those who’ve not experienced this firsthand, it may be hard to appreciate the distinction between kids who live at college 9 months of the year and those who move away from home permanently. Trust me, it's different.

I asked a friend how she’s coped with her four kids leaving home. She replied that all we can do is hope our fledgling children are happy, safe, and doing well (they are). Anything else is my problem (yep). I’ve actually seen both boys since they moved and can report that I didn’t need nearly as much Kleenex when saying goodbye the second time around.

What’s been adding to the upheaval is that we’re simultaneously transitioning my senior parents from their home of forty years into supervised care. Dad’s dementia and Mom’s tenuous health make it impossible for them to live on their own anymore. Dad moved into an assisted living facility near my brother’s family in Ohio, and seems to be adjusting well to his new surroundings and routine. Mom, on the other hand, keeps bouncing between hospital and rehab, while fighting a nasty infection. She can’t make the move under her current circumstances, and I fear she never will.

So, in an effort to keep this space moderately quilt related (and take my mind off the above for awhile), here’s an autumn inspired quilt I made in the late 1990’s. The anvil blocks measure 8” and when set on point, strippy style, make a handsome quilt.

It was custom machine quilted by a gal who has since sold her machine and retired to Arizona (to take up golf). Boy, do I miss her! Passing a quilt to Robyn was always a pleasure, trusting that whatever design she chose would be perfect for the quilt.

Can you see the feathered wreath she fit inside each block?

Quilt lore has it that many antique quilts were made with dark fabrics to hide dirt and stains between infrequent launderings. I make mine that way just because I like the way they look.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Checkin' In

You know it’s been too long between posts when your nonbloggy friends point out your infrequent updates. I got an email from my buddy Sheila recently, asking what the heck I've been up to. Well, there’s plenty going on, just very little that’s appropriate to share here on a quilt blog.

Health and family matters require my energy and attention right now. I need a little time to process all that’s happening. When I can write about things without sounding like I’m completely spilling my guts, I’ll share. I know many of you have dealt with the same issues I’m facing. They’re not new, just new to me.

In the meantime, let’s look to quilts for the solace and distraction they provide. My quilt (above) was inspired by a late 1800’s quilt (below) which appears in Sandi Fox’s book, Small Endearments: Nineteenth-Century Quilts for Children and Dolls.

I don’t know if I tried to recreate the antique quilt from memory or if I was just lazy, but I substituted four patch blocks for the nine patches of the original quilt. The result resembles the antique enough to please me.

The primary fabrics are from Harriet Hargrave's Heirloom Collection, produced in the mid 1990's. It was a great line of reproduction fabric, with lots of fine detail and several strong colors.

The background fabric is a mottled chocolate brown print which makes the quilt look old while still letting the colors shine.

Mine looks like it could do with a good pressing before it gets quilted!

Thanks for checkin' in on me!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A Bird in the Hand

One of the fabrics Vicki sent me was a Judie Rothermel print (Regency II Collection) which compliments a set of nine patch blocks I’ve been saving for a “someday” quilt. My inspiration came from an antique I saw displayed at the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana. The original quilt has been registered with the Montana Quilt Documentation Project, so much is known of its history and provenance.

The quilt was made by Mollie Stine for her daughter Alice. It traveled with the family from Hume, Missouri to Bozeman, Montana in 1898. Details of their four month covered wagon trek were reported in a Bozeman newspaper by one of the Stine daughters.

double CLICK to read

In the original quilt, what packed a punch was the 224 tiny nine patch blocks. They contained an astounding variety of brown prints, which managed to hold their own against the predominant cheddar color. These simple, spunky blocks just begged to be reproduced.

My intention was to duplicate the entire Stine quilt. I knew I could come up with at least 50 different brown prints from my stash, and began making four identical blocks from each fabric. After 20 sets of blocks, I lost steam. As usual, MS sidetracked me.

Since 1999, the blocks have been tucked inside a box that’s been moved so many times, I forgot where it was. When I saw that Judy Rothermel fabric, it prompted a search for the box and a change of plans.

Because I have four identical sets of 20 blocks, I thought I’d make a doll quilt for myself and kit up the remaining blocks as a thank you for my friends who pieced the wedding quilt. Better to use up what I have than delude myself that I’ll ever make more. After all, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fiber Therapy

There’s been precious little fabric coming through my door of late. In fact, I can’t remember the last purchase I made. It was probably a cute little charm pack, intended to boost my spirits during a particularly “trying time.“ By that reasoning, I should be smothered with fabric. Times have been very trying lately. But that is the subject for another post… maybe.

Generally, I don’t submit my name for giveaways involving fabric. I’ve got more than I will ever use, and should probably consider giving away portions of my own stash. What made me linger over this post long enough to enter was the enticement of five fat quarters and fifty 3" squares of lovely reproduction fabrics. Wow, no cutting required, just the instant gratification of stroking and sorting, mixing and matching beautiful bits of cloth!

Before I knew it, I had entered the drawing. My comment was completely impulsive and when Vicki from "What a Load of Scrap" (best blog name ever, by the way) announced me as a winner, I felt a bit guilty about my good fortune.

You see, I know several of the other entrants and felt like I’d ripped this fabric right out of their far more capable and deserving hands.

Forgive me friends. I’m in desperate need of a pick-me-up and the pleasure of opening a squishy package filled with patchwork possibilities is just the best feeling around.

Thank you, Vicki, for the fiber therapy!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Gilding the Lily, Part 5

As you can see, I finally settled on a traditional layout for my Carolina Lily quilt. Plain alternate blocks give those busy lilies some much needed breathing room. They are now the focal point of the quilt, without overwhelming the whole design.

Those 15 ½” setting squares and 7” borders provide yet another opportunity for choice, this time, of a quilting motif. Will I decide on something tasteful or will I cross the line again, between classic elegance and over embellishment? Wait and see.

I found a gorgeous inspiration quilt at Feathered Fibers (Click the photos for more incredible detail). Everything about this quilt is perfect. In fact, if I had seen it 18 years ago, it would have saved me a lot of grief in the design department! 

Let me know if you can recommend a machine quilter who stitches like that! Thanks.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Gilding the Lily, Part 4

With a betrothal announced, I finally had an incentive to get this quilt finished. As usual though, I couldn’t do it myself. That’s what I get for waiting 18 years!

I’ve mentioned my awesome quilt friends before. They’ve come to my rescue many times, finishing ill-fated projects with their expert needle skills. This time, they were particularly generous and agreed to assemble an entire quilt top for me!

What makes their gesture so poignant is that these are the same friends who made my son this baby quilt 23 years earlier. They’ve known James his whole life and put such love into both quilts.

Here are my dear friends Mary, Sheila and Kathy. Ever modest, they insisted on squatting for this photo, to show off more of the quilt.

And here they are again, striking a more glamorous pose. They'll be furious that I shared this photo, but I just love it. Their personalities really shine through!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Gilding the Lily, Part 3

To make a long story short, I nixed the urn idea and added stems and leaves to the lily pattern. Choosing a less intense red fabric helped reduce the "pulsing" colors. After the ladies in my quilt group made 12 blocks for me, I took a little break.

In fact, I didn’t think of this project again for 5 or 6 years! As I gathered materials for a Gwen Marston Beaver Island Quilt Retreat in 1998, they came to mind. Gwen's retreat topic that year was Four Block Quilts and I figured having an extra set of blocks to play around with might come in handy.

I stitched four lily blocks together and came up with this. The green center portion didn’t appeal to me much, but the new block had potential for creating some interesting secondary patterns.

Had I continued, the resultant quilt might have looked like this. Interesting, yes, but way too busy for my tastes. Besides, it would have required 4 additional blocks, which I just wasn’t up to making.

I guess I hadn't learned my lesson. Once again, I'd taken a simple block and schlocked it up. After picking out the seams, the project got shelved again, until… 12 years later, when our son and his University of North Carolina sweetheart announced their engagement. Could there be a more perfect wedding quilt for this couple than a Carolina Lily?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Gilding the Lily, Part 2

Let me put these Carolina Lily blocks in a clearer context for you. Eighteen years ago, I belonged to a bee group that stitched and swapped complex quilt blocks with one another. When my turn rolled around, I chose the lily pattern and fabrics as previously described.

It was obvious that my dueling red and green fabrics wouldn‘t work. Any sensible person would have stopped right there and replaced one of those colors with a fabric that did work. Not me! I thought if I found an additional fabric that contained both colors, it would somehow bridge the gap and actually calm the block down. 

I carried those swatches with me everywhere, auditioning any fabric that contained a smattering of red and green.

At last, I found a paisley print that matched. "Wow" I thought. "I've hit the jackpot. I've struck gold!" Literally... it was a metallic print. Before I could think twice, I bought the fabric, cut the pieces for the urn and added them to my sample block.

You see where this is going, don’t you? The fabric looked perfect... from 6 inches away, but when it caught the light, the Carolina Lily turned into a glitzy, gaudy Christmasy fiasco. I had literally “gilded my lily!” 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gilding the Lily, Part 1

Do you know that expression, "gild the lily"? It means "an attempt to improve something that is already fine the way it is."  Take note, it will be a recurring theme through the next few posts.

I love classic red and green quilts. You just can’t go wrong with that color combination… or so I thought. This particular block posed plenty of problems for me. I learned many lessons about color and design in the process of turning it into a quilt. Perhaps by sharing, you can learn from my experience.

I took up quilting while living in North Carolina and always intended to honor that by making a Carolina Lily quilt. The pattern is, indeed, based on an actual North Carolina wildflower.

The traditional Carolina Lily block consists of three 4 petaled blooms on long slender stems, but there are many variations. Once I came across this design in Primarily Patchwork by Marjorie Puckett and Gail Giberson, 1975, I looked no further. The full center flower and simple urn-like pot really appealed to me.

By sticking with classic red and green on a white background and limiting myself to solids, I thought fabric selection would be a breeze. Not so! It is actually possible to make mistakes using only two colors of solid fabric.

My first fabric purchase was this beautiful green. I bought the end of the bolt because it was such a good deal and I just knew I’d never find that particular shade again. By purchasing yards of fabric, however, I was seriously invested in using it and making it work, even when it didn’t.

Early red and green quilts were made with Turkey Red fabric, a colorfast, cool red cloth. In my quest for authenticity, my next fabric purchase was a rich, saturated red.

Here’s where things got interesting. What happened when those two fabrics were pieced side by side? It may be hard to see on your computer monitor, but the red and green actually "pulse" or “vibrate” where they meet. This optical illusion occurs when complimentary colors of roughly the same value (brightness or intensity) are placed next to each other. The effect was dizzying, but I thought I could still make it work.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Process Pledge

Have you noticed this logo cropping up on your favorite quilt blogs lately? The link leads to an excellent post about changing the focus of our blogs to include the process of quilt making rather than simply sharing the final product. When you read the post, read the comments as well. They're enlightening.
You won't see much about process on my blog because most of the quilts I share were finished years ago. It's hard to recreate the design process for readers, once sketches, notes, and memories are gone. But if my quilts have stories, I will tell them.

This Square in a Square quilt, for example, is typical of what I was making in the early 1990’s ~ traditional pattern, controlled color palette, loads of hand quilting.

Roberta Horton‘s Mood Indigo fabrics inspired this quilt. I'd sent away for 4” sample squares of the collection, reasoning that variety was more important to me than quantity. Horton's plaid and striped fabrics were unique for the time and I simply wanted to document them in a quilt.

I'd read Horton‘s book, Plaids and Stripes: The Use of Directional Fabric in Quilts,  where she suggests cutting some of your fabric “casually off grain” to mimic the look of antique quilts, and add the interest your eye seeks when using nothing but linear fabrics. I laugh now when I see my timid attempts to heed her advice.

This quilt was a good candidate for hand quilting, since the fabric is luxuriously soft and easy to needle. I used Mountain Mist Cotton batting, which requires quilting as closely as 1/4" to 1/2" intervals. It has a flat loft and puckers with washing. If you don't mind doing all that stitching, you're rewarded with a quilt that looks antique.

People sometimes ask, especially about my small quilts, "What are you going to do with that now that it's finished?" "Own it, look at it, love it," I'm always tempted to reply. In this case, I truly made it just to chronicle a beautiful collection of fabrics. The joy was in the making. That was enough.
Horton’s Got The Blues
30" square
machine pieced, hand quilted
© Diane Burdin, 1993

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Kindness of Strangers

Well, it’s happened again! I’ve won another terrific giveaway, this time from LibbyQ at Paper Napkin Poetry. Libby is a talented photographer, multi-media collage artist and needlewoman whose work reveals the often overlooked detail of everyday things. Visit her blog ~ it's a gift in and of itself.

Her prize included an assortment of exquisitely stitched fabric postcards, exotic tea and honey sticks, sweet little packets of wildflower seeds and a luscious chocolate bar. I can’t stop studying, and admiring each hand stitched postcard. The detail is incredible and the longer I look, the more I see. Click each photo for a larger view.

This one is embellished with tiny shells, textural ribbon, feather stitched embroidery and rubber stamping...

fused fabric trimmings, foil...

buttonhole embroidery, tiny french knots stitched
with a single metallic thread, charms...

more hand stitched embroidery,
cute little sticky dots...

rubber stamping, single thread embroidery,
a miniature needle punched topiary inscribed
with the words ”thinking of you” ...

hand embroidery, charms, and a
hidden message ~ "wonder"

The kindness of quilt bloggers like Libbyquilter astounds me. That someone would put so much time, effort and skill into a project, only to offer it to a complete stranger, shows a generosity of spirit that few possess.

Thanks again, LibbyQ. I feel very fortunate to own these little treasures. They won’t be wending their way through the post anytime soon.