Archive for April, 2014


From left to right, panels roughly 10″x37″: Serena Johnson, Cathy Cannon, Nela Dunaway, Jan Dunaway, Penny Kehus, Margaret Phelps, and Marilyn Oltmans.

And our group quilt is done. Wow! What a feeling. We hung our panels, and sat around in companionable silence admiring them. Every now and then one of us would exclaim. We took pictures. We smiled and laughed, exhilarated with our accomplishment.

IMG_8067And then after taking a few moments to take in the entire quilt, we began to see the smaller, more intimate details. Jan embellished with hand stitching embroidery and beads.


Penny’s intricate stitching.

IMG_8074Plants and bushes. Penny extended hers off the edge of the quilt!

IMG_8078The interplay between panels, working together but being uniquely separate.


And with this project barely completed, we already began talking about the next one! We will take a break over the summer, and meet up again in the fall to discuss and choose our next endeavor.

IMG_8082Nela made us labels for the backs of the quilts, so we took a few moments to quickly stitch them on. Marilyn volunteered to take the panels and sew on the hanging sleeve.

IMG_8088It felt strangely light to return home without my panel, without my mind humming with ideas for what I would do next. I feel a new sense of openness, wondering what is next? I’m not pulled to any one project, this one having been my sole focus for so long. It is a feeling of lightness, knowing I could go in whatever direction pulls me and inspires me!

Reflecting on this experience this morning, I am struck again and again by the sense of companionship I received working on a collaborative quilt. The relationships we established and grew with each other seem almost as meaningful as the quilt we made together. The way we supported each other, with critique and positive encouragement, made the quilt the astonishing piece that it is. As we discussed our next project, a sense of play, creativity, experiment, history, and community played an important part in what we might choose next. I am grateful for this experience, and hope you have enjoyed following us. You can see the quilt in person at our guild quilt show, May 24 – 25 in Bishop, and later at our county fair in the fall.

PicMonkey Collage

A sneak peak of Nela’s quilt made about our Calico Quilt Guild. Stop by the show to see it!

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Deciding on Done

These last two weekends have been a big push to finish my mountain panel. May is a busy month for a lot of folks, so our group decided to complete our panels this month. Next Saturday we meet up to put on sleeves and to figure out how to hang them. I’ve been working furiously to get my panel done. It has helped to have a deadline, I think sometimes a quilt project can languish as enthusiasm wanes, but with this project the pace has been fast enough that my interest has stayed fresh and my motivation high.

PicMonkey Collage2
Last weekend, Cathy again stopped by so I could compare my panel to hers. As you might have noticed, I changed my green! Like I’ve shared before, it was something that continually nagged at me, and it truly wasn’t that difficult to pull out the little stitching I’d done, pick different greens, and put it all back together. Cathy and I compared our main elements, making sure general themes and colors lined up between panels. I’m so happy with the change. While there are differences between our panels, the transition isn’t so harsh or obvious. By making the value change and making our panels more similar, I feel that our different techniques and elements can be more appreciated and enjoyed.

I also spent last weekend working on my iris. I found some simple images online, enlarged them to the size I wanted, and re sketched and manipulated them until I had what I liked. I traced them, then cut out fabric pieces on fusible webbing.

Here are the iris on the fusible webbing mat. This new tool I recently learned about and immediately purchased works wonders! It allows you to iron pieces of fusible fabrics together, and then peel them off the mat and fuse to your fabric. Miraculous. Another one of those techniques I learned while working with the other quilters in our group.

I continued to quilt more, thinking of the panel as a series of layers. First I wanted to quilt my bottom layer of green valley floor. Then the tree as the second layer, and then the flowers and other embellishment as the last layer.

PicMonkey Collage3I got really excited about quilting the cottonwood tree. As you probably have noticed, it is one of the main features of my panel, and I thought a lot about how to create the texture of bark on the plain brown fabric. I browsed around on the Free Motion Quilting Project site, and ended up selecting #3, gentle flames. I traced my tree outline and then practiced drawing the pattern before I tried it on the machine. I wanted to get the feel of how the lines moved and their look. I mimicked the effect of quilting while drawing by not lifting my pencil, so I could get comfortable with travel stitching. Leah Day teaches and used travel stitching a lot, something that really helps with making complex free motion quilting designs. Really free motion quilting is just drawing a zentangle with thread!
IMG_2191After the tree bark, I moved on to the leaves. Remember, I pre-cut and stitched together my tree canopy. Now I laid down the leaves, and pinned them like crazy till I had the layout I liked. I moved and adjusted as desired, making different sections of tree branches and mountains peep through the leaves. I than crazily stitched all the leaves down. It was a little slow going because of all the layers, I was constantly stopping and going, using a pin needle to push the leaf fabrics flat under my darning foot. I used three different colors, the first just to get everything stitched down, the second a lighter brighter color to make highlights on the tops of the leaves, and the third a darker color to make shadows. I think it is little touches like this that the viewer appreciates without even realizing was done.

IMG_2194Can you see the shadows lengthening on the fabric? It was an epic day of stitching! Towards afternoon, I finished quilting the iris, and all my embellishments were stitched down. I hung my quilt on the wall to look at, and peered up close, stood away. I’d stand and look at it, then leave the room and come back. Then I went and read a book, did some chores, and came back to it. I was debating about whether it was done, or if it needed something else. I had ideas of more bushes made with yarn that Lesley hand spun me, maybe a great blue heron sitting in the tree, or flying across the sky. Did I need to stitch more bushes? Put a few more colors in the leaves? This is that moment when you can do too much, or one more addition might make it come together. In the end, I decided anything more might be too much, and it was done. White space or open space or unused space can be good. A quilt needs to breath and have room. And with six more panels next to mine, there is going to be plenty more detail. I thought my open valley below the tree might complement the other panels well, as there is so much open space in this valley where we live. And so I started to bind it! Why wait?!


We chose as a group to do a hidden binding, pulled to the back, so the quilt goes right to the edge. I sewed my last seam, stitched my last stitch, ironed my last piece of fabric, and called it good. I can’t wait to see all of our panels side by side! We meet on Saturday, and I can hardly contain my anticipation.

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My mountain quilt panel was to the point where it was time to quilt! I eagerly sat down at my Kenmore machine, switched to my darning foot, dropped the feed dogs, and prepared to have fun. Ugh. Every few minutes my machine would sieze up, the needle would get stuck in the down position, and the only way I could figure to get unstuck would be each time to completely take apart the bobbin machinery, then put it all together again, start again and then a few minutes later . . . jam!

Then I had this light bulb moment of, maybe I need a different machine! For years I’ve quilted on my Kenmore, inherited from my great-aunt Clarkia. It is a workhorse, solid metal, and has served me beautifully for all these years. But suddenly it hit me, that maybe I was pushing the machine too hard, and there is a different machine that would meet what I want it to accomplish better.

I started to call my quilter friends. And something surprising emerged: they all have Brother 1500 quilting machines! I read reviews online, spoke with my friends, and got the impression it was exactly the machine I was imagining: simple and functional for piecing and quilting quilts.

My quilter friend Margaret now quilts on her Bernina, but had a Brother 1500 originally, and generously brought the machine by my house to lend it to me so I could give it a try! Here’s my first swatch when I gave the machine my first try. It was a breeze! A gentle humming sound and I easily stitched patterns. I felt the world of possibility open up.

Last weekend I eagerly cleared my Saturday of obligations, and began to quilt my mountain panel quilt. Margaret had given me some tips on how to do the sky, that in landscapes, put lines closer together towards the horizon and further apart as you got towards the top. It did take a bit of courage as I made my first stitches!

I first sketched my lines with chalk, to get a feel for what my intended stitching might look like. This was a helpful technique, as I could erase and redraw until I liked what I saw, and then when I stitched I could follow my lines. I had fun following the pattern in the hand dyed fabric, outlining the white clouds and emphasizing the stormy purple and blue.

My courage served me well, and the sky came together beautifully, and I continued on to the mountains. I had a brief side trip to purchase more thread at the craft store mid-afternoon, as I didn’t have any colors that matched what I wanted for my mountains. Again, I sketched the lines with chalk, and then stitched them with thread.

I chose a kind of topographic echoing repeating line pattern to emphasize the shape and flow of the mountains. I echoed but also made it random, giving it a realistic look. I wanted my snow patches to stand out, so I stitched around them with the mountain color, and then came back with white thread and stitched the white snow patches down.

And there is the top third! I was able to achieve more detail and control with the new machine. I can’t wait to continue quilting the rest! But wait, can you see in the photograph, it is white below the mountains. It’s true, I tore apart my entire bottom two-thirds of the panel. I removed all the quilting and took my light green fabrics off. This weekend I’ll reassemble it, and it shouldn’t take too long. I’ve selected the colors for the background fabric, and then will put back on top the tree trunk, leaves, bushes etc. And then I’ll quilt!

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