Quilts at the Fair

Our county fair happened to open on my birthday this year. I had entered four quilts, and was excited to visit the fair, see the quilt show, and celebrate my birthday!


When I entered the quilt show building, it was filled with so many beautiful quilts! And all my other quilt friends who had the same idea and came on opening night to see the quilts. I turned to the left and easily spotted three of my small quilts hanging together. A 1st and two 3rds, yahoo!


My fourth quilt was my Big Pine creek mountain quilt. It took me a second to find it because it was hanging over the door as you walk in. And when I did find it, it was a great birthday present, Best of Show for Domestic Machine Quilting! Double yahoo.


(Super challenging to get a good picture, both because of it being way high up and over the open door …) What a great birthday present!


I’m always fascinated by how the judge selects their placings. Quilts that I thought would do better didn’t, and quilts that did well surprised me. It’s always exciting to get the quilts back after the show, because the fair staff very nicely write the judge’s comments on the back of the label. Want to hear what they said? (Apparently I have a lot of issues with tension …)


Okay, so I was surprised by my Bristlecone Sunset, because I love this little quilt. But it does have issues with quilting tension, as you can see in the tree trunk. The judge’s comments were: Overall design placement well balanced. Concept intriguing. Raw edge applique handled well. Lower yellow stitching has tension issues. Bobbin thread shows thru front. In leaf areas, some background. Facing is appropriate for piece.


After the Sun Sets also received a third place. The judge commented: Variety of vibrant colors adds interest. Trees appear out of scale. Applique well done. Attention to quilt lines create texture. Strive for more precise tension control. Facing is appropriate. 


Big Pine Creek surprisingly received a second, for it also being a best of show. I kind of assumed that best of shows also need to be a first place? Guess not! Judge’s comments: Very pleasing overall conceptual design. Excellent piecing technique. Small purple delineation lines greatly utilized. Quilting lines add texture. Well done! Facing well done.


And lastly, my sweet Cotswold quilt, was the first place winner! Judge’s comments: Pleasant and inviting scene. Perspective is well done. Variety of fabrics add interest, and are appropriate. Raw edge applique generally well done. Inner flashing (hard to read word) appreciated and well done. Machine quilting sufficient. Slight tension issue noted on back. Nicely framed and faced.

There you have it! I like the comments, but am also curious how the comments relate to the placings. Is the tension enough to make it a third place? How is design and technique and overall look weighted? Is emphasis put more on one than another? Does the judge just look at it and decide in that moment? Whatever the way, it is fun to support the fair, show our quilts, and receive the feedback!


August is a middle of the summer month, surprising you with unending heat, and pretending to be the end of summer. It’s when we start to long for fall, with cooler days and changing colors. For me, my August was full of summer fun riding bikes and starting a new job.


And so with all these changes in the air, it was a pleasure to unwrap my August Pressed Seam Club fabric, excited to see what lovely colors were arriving to me this month.


What lovely soft colors for the crazy heat of summer! We like to escape the valley floor where our temperatures often reach the triple digits, to the mountains where while still warm, are much more milder.

IMG_4284 2

I’ve enjoyed seeing my stash grow with the Pressed Seam club fabrics, and have been drawn to new colors and patterns I wouldn’t normally pick out myself.


It’s nice to know my fabrics are patiently waiting for me while life gets crazy, with new job and summer fun. Knowing the weather will get cold and the days shorter and there’ll be more time for stitching and cups of tea.


Until then, we’ll go to the mountains to play and rejuvenate our souls. I’ll take pictures and be inspired by mother nature. And some day there’ll be time for quilting again!

July’s assignment was landscapes. Woo hoo! My favorite. We were challenged with picking a scene that we see daily, in our neighborhood or town. I chose a photo I took on an evening dog ride.


Summer temps reach the triple digits where I live, so we find it is bearable just after the sun sets, to get outside for a little bit. I love this image because it captures so many things that I care about, my family, my dog, where I live, and the mountains. I especially like the way the setting sun caught the tips of the mountains turning their colors orange and pink.


This assignment focused on learning how to simplify a photograph to its main elements, and to not be afraid to add or move pieces to make the composition better, or to take pieces away. It also emphasized adding in to your artwork the piece that grabs you and makes your heart sing.


After going through the process of making my first sketch, modifying it, enlarging it, choosing where values would go, I was ready to select fabrics. I made two decisions for this quilt, to use fusible webbing and to dive in and use my ice dyed fabrics!


For the sky, I selected a piece of fabric I painted at a Road class many years ago. I’ve been going through a bit of a use-what-I-have kick, pushing myself to stop treasuring the fabrics and just use them! Many have been sitting in my drawers and cabinets for many years. The result – I’m loving the process of using them, and I can always dye more!


Here’s my piece almost all blocked out, as I continued to make fabric and value decisions. I missed mid-July deadline for the blocked out submission, so at this point I was standing in for myself as critique.


Quilting the piece was playful and fun. I followed the shapes of the clouds in the sky, the topography of the mountains, and tried to add some patterning in the foreground to represent the sage brush we have here in abundance. I finished it with a no binding facing. The quilt comes in at 11″ x 17″.


I am super pleased with how it came out. I’m glad I jumped in and used my ice dyed fabric. And I am inspired to paint more skies.


Do you think I captured my love of where I live and the glint of the setting sun on the mountains? I think the pink and orange of the fabric makes the mountain tips glow.

P.S. You might have noticed a flurry of blog posts and finished quilts recently! I am just finishing up a two week staycation that has been absolutely lovely. It is a great feeling to finish a lot of items on my to do list. I’m all caught up with my master class, and well on the way to completing gifts for friends and projects for myself. Thanks for reading!

For May, our assignment was to learn about depth. How to make a flat quilt scene look more realistic. The first assignment was to draw our chosen scene twice, once using the new depth tools we had learned, and second making it flat, ignoring all those tools. I chose to capture a moment when my mom and I walked the Cotswold Way in England last summer.


We were challenged to use at least four tools to indicate depth. I chose to use foreground interest (making the foreground more detailed), overlapping shapes, road perspective (wider the closer it gets), and size relationships (shapes in the background are smaller).


After the first sketch, I made a second to incorporate the suggested changes from Elizabeth. These included moving the post left, working on the road in how it meets the horizon and the way the edges curve, and adding more interest to the bottom right.


For this class, I also wanted to challenge myself to use only print fabric from my stash. I made value decisions on my sketch, and sorted and selected fabric to match.


I enlarged the sketch and started to cut out the fabric shapes, pulling together the scene. I chose to try the glue method again, skipping fusible webbing (I’ll go back to my fusible webbing on my next quilt. Jury is still out on which I prefer, they both have their positive and negative aspects!).


From this round of critique, Elizabeth suggested I crop down the sky, double check I like the position of the post, switch up some of the tree trunk fabric as the patterning was distracting, add more fabric to the post to make it look more realistic, and adjust the small tree at the end of the road. Back to the drawing board and cutting mat!

Once I had it all where I wanted it to go, I glued it down, quilted, and bound it! I decided to go with a double border to give it a framed look.


The Cotswold Way markers became very dear to us, as they let us know we were on the right track. There often wasn’t a good trail or road to follow as we crossed forest and fields!


I really like the act of making a quilt of a treasured memory. I can just see my mom ahead of me walking down the trail past the large oak trees, before we stop in the next village for a cup of tea.

New Dye Studio Love

I am so lucky! My husband built a dye studio space for me in our garage. We were gifted old counter top from a neighbor who was remodeling their kitchen. He rearranged some cabinets for the counter to sit on, and built some additional shelves above.


The area is almost six feet long, and is adjacent to a large industrial sink (perfect for rinsing), and our washer and dryer. Of course, I was impatient to move in.


I felt very gleeful as I unpacked my supplies from their bins they had been sitting in, to arrange in the space of the new cabinets. I am so thrilled to have a designated space for dyeing, with all my supplies ready to play with at a moments notice.


Of course, once I had it all arranged, I immediately wanted to try dyeing in the new space! Having just completed a small mountain quilt with some of my ice dyed fabrics (more on that coming soon!), I was inspired to dye more ice dyed fabrics!


What a pleasure it was, to pull out all the materials, set up the fabric and dye, and be off and away, new fabric in progress! No worrying about interfering with activities in my kitchen, or contaminating the food area. All I had to do was wait for the ice to melt!


Actually, I hope to do more ice dyeing. It’s been awhile, and I’m not sure if I used enough ice and/or dye. The picture above was the first round. When I rinsed out the fabrics, no dye had reached the bottom portion. So I attempted a second round, putting the fabrics in upside down (their un-dyed portion near the top) and I used more ice and dye.


However, the second batch didn’t sit overnight. You can see in the final fabric, the bottom half is more muted. I still like the result! Just fun to experiment and note results. I can’t wait to try more! Hmm, maybe I need to order more fabric …

Among my family and friends, I am so blessed to get to help welcome into the world many little ones! I love giving a baby blanket to each little.


I remember starting this quilt back in winter, when snow piled up outside and storms raged. The outside temps are quite different now, but I was lucky to have some free time to finish up the quilt this summer.


I love using printed fabrics for baby quilts, with all the cute and modern prints available now! I made simple large rectangles for the front, and used some bicycle fabric for the back, as Zylvanio’s parents love to ride bikes.


For quilting, I did a cursive loopy line. I picked a bright green-blue fabric for binding. I love the feeling of pulling the freshly washed quilt out of the dryer! It’s so crinkly and soft. Perfect for baby!


I promptly shipped off the quilt, and was so pleased when mom shared of video of baby Zyl hanging out on the quilt. Love! I can’t wait to meet Zylvanio myself. In the meantime, there are a few more little ones who will be arriving in the next year. Time to play with more fabric!

In Memory of Margaret

On Sunday, I received news that a dear friend had passed away. She had been fighting an illness, but it was still a surprise to hear. Since then, I’ve been thinking of her often, sifting through my memories and trying to understand. I’d like to honor her here, as she was such an enormous influence on my creative path, in addition to being a true friend.


Self Portrait, Quilt by Margaret Phelps

Margaret was one of the first people I met when I moved to the Eastern Sierra in 2008. I recall very vividly the first time I met her. I started volunteering with an outdoor education program, and my first day was helping with a second grade field trip in Fish Slough. Margaret was leading the talk on petroglyphs and archaeology. She had a confident way with the kids, alternately inspiring them and keeping them in line. She had boundless energy, leading group after group through her talk. During a break, we discovered we both liked to quilt, and Margaret invited me to join the local quilt guild. I think some part of me knew, in that moment, we were going to be friends.


My Mountains, Quilt by Margaret Phelps

Margaret had an unending curiosity and boundless enthusiasm. She had more energy than ten people combined, and used every minute of every day to make things happen. She was a Master Gardener, instrumental in starting a community garden, and worked with a local nonprofit to grow vegetables for a local soup kitchen. Margaret and a friend started a Children’s Day of the Arts event, and continued hosting it for many years, exposing youth to fun and crafty projects. She walked every day, rescued and loved countless dogs, cats, horses, and mules. Margaret was a volunteer steward of petroglyphs, where she would hike and observe a set site of petroglyphs, and report on any illegal activity observed. Those are just the pieces I can think of right now, I’m sure there were countless more!


And then there was Margaret’s crafty side, which is where we had so much fun together. Margaret wanted to try everything. She was curious, adventuresome, and brave. If she saw a technique in a magazine, she’d try it out. If she saw a class that looked interesting, she would go. And she would often bring back those skills, and share them with us. Which in a way is what started our Out of the Box group. In 2010, a small group of us interested in art quilting started to meet regularly, to share techniques and encourage each other. Over time, we started to host challenges and work on group quilts together. Each person brings so much to our small group, and Margaret contributed her love of learning and enthusiasm.

PicMonkey Collage

For example, after she attended a shibori dyeing class, Margaret shared what she learned at one of our Out of the Box meetings, and we all spent the day learning and making our own fabrics. Margaret gave. Margaret gave of herself, every day, in every way she knew how.


Margaret loved all animals. Here, her panel in our Mountain Quilt, she added two mules. When we lived in Bishop, my husband would walk our dog each morning before work. His route would pass by the community garden, where he would often see Margaret working in her plot. She loved our dog, and he loved her. She could scratch his ears in such a way that had him melting. Each time he would see her he would run over to say hello. She had this affect on all animals.


And Margaret and I had our own adventures together too. We attended Road to California together twice, taking a long two day workshop, the first time to learn to paint on fabric, and the second on color landscapes. Sometimes we would meet up to try out a new technique we saw in a magazine, like this time with dyeing fabric using silk ties. And we would also teach workshops together, like this time sharing with our guild on how to ice dye.


While much of the time quilting is spent at home alone, Margaret was a part of creating a community of women working together and encouraging each other’s passions. Margaret pushed us out of the box to try new things. She did it with energy. She did it with heart.


Margaret you will be truly missed.


I hope you always have lots of fabric piled around you to make stunning quilts with.

Good bye friend.

All quilts in this post by Margaret Phelps.