Monday, August 2, 2010

Missing Lee

I’ve been a very sad quilter for the last week because a dear friend of mine passed away after an 18-year long battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. I’ve just returned from her “Celebration of Life” and feel revived with the spirit of love and friendship but still ache for what she went through especially the past 2 years after enduring an experimental treatment at Stanford which, sadly, destroyed her lungs. When her lungs collapsed 2 weeks ago, she refused further treatment, called everyone to say good-bye and left this earth.

Her call to me was to ask “an enormous favor”. Oh, anything Lee, ANYthing at all. Her request was for me to finish 2 quilts she’d started for her daughter and her niece. Lee had only made a few quilts and she was very precise and thoughtful in her process so I hope I can complete them as she would have wanted. These black, white and red heart blocks meant for her niece Caitlin are a quilt-as-you-go method and I’m honored to finish them for her.

Lee lived to see her daughter from college traveling to Oregon only last month to attend the ceremony. She met the boyfriend and his parents and was very happy with her daughter’s choice. I know this meant the world to her. Lee was always cheerful, having that sort of smile that made her eyes squint and twinkle. She was so intelligent and well-read and she was a wonderful cook inviting friends to her immaculate home often. Lee was 61.

I’m so lucky to have had Lee call me ‘friend’ for the past 8 years. Our circle of friends is a tight one and although our light will burn a little less brightly, we will continue to watch and discuss movies together and don our purple dresses and red hats while keeping Lee in our hearts forever.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Calendar Girls!

The first thing I did when I decided I wanted to start quilting was join a quilt guild. I chose the one closest to where I live, of course, the Valley Quilt Guild in Yuba City which, in 1994, had been a thriving guild for 6 years. Within a few months, I’d made friends, joined a weekly group, Thursday Stitchers, who made quilts exclusively for community service, and learned a lot from speakers and classes afforded to members. Within a few years, I’d become the Rabid Quilter I am today and wanted even more!

I’d heard about ‘Round Robins’ and thought it’d be fun to get a few people together and try one. I was allowed to make such a plea on stage at one of our guild meeting and asked people who wanted to form such a group to meet me at the break. I chose a nice large area as I envisioned being inundated by interested quilters. No one, not a single person, showed up! Huh. Not to be deterred, I tried again at the next guild meeting a month later this time with a little more enthusiasm and again, nothing. Was I speaking a foreign language? Did I smell?

The following month was our “Make a Difference Day” sew-in where the majority of our guild got together at the local shopping mall to sew quilts for community service. I hadn’t given up my idea but this time had formulated a better plan: I wrote the names of each month on 12 slips of paper and put them in a bag. I’d carefully chosen 11 other guild members who followed a criteria I thought necessary to have a successful group: 1) they were are women I wanted to spend time with 2) they were decent quilters (at least not TOO much more ‘decent’ than I) 3) they were productive, showing completed quilts on a regular basis so I knew they had time to quilt.

I walked up to each one in turn and asked them simply to pick a slip of paper out of my bag and meet me at a certain table at lunchtime. To my delight, ALL of them showed up, intrigued certainly by the paper with ‘January’ or ‘August’ written on it. I announced that we were now The Calendar Girls! Each was to make 12 blocks that depicted their month in any way they chose. They could make all 12 exactly the same, all different or somewhere in between and we’d exchange blocks at a future date. Only one person declined having just taken a new job but we’d made enough of a stir in the room that others had eavesdropped and one of them stepped right up and volunteered to take her place.

We got out our calendars and decided on a date 6 months hence to meet with our completed blocks. Our first block exchange led to 12 finished quilts six months later and we’ve been meeting twice a year ever since. Next year will be our 10th year together and while a few Calendar Girls have moved away or passed on, we thrive, changing the theme, size and color of the blocks we make each year. We are now 16 quilters and I can honestly say, these are my best friends, more like a family than anything this ‘only-child’ has ever known.

And we’ve made some pretty spectacular quilts too!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A new class!

After many fits and starts, I finally come up with a quilt I love that makes for a fun new class! Creating a new class is time-consuming: you get an idea, labor over the quilt, sometimes make it again ('cuz it didn't turn out exactly the way you envisioned it), then create precise directions and get the word out!

Seems like I got it right because when I taught it for the Amador Valley Quilters, they had great success!

"What's in the Box?" is a quilt I've been toying with for years! It's construction is very similar to the One Fabric Kaleidoscope believe it or not, but the 3-D effect makes it so fun! This is perfect for an "Eye Spy" quilt for a little person in your life, filling the boxes with bugs, food, and/or other fun things, or put any type of fabric in the boxes just for that eye-bending coolness that gets great comments.

I've been collecting "food" fabric for years and this quilt is full of edibles--some good for you, the rest, treats! Ask your grandchild to "find the potato chips" (or cookies, lollypops or jellybeans) then challenge him or her to "find something good for you to eat" (like artichokes, apricots or grapes).

What's best is, this is a real 'stash-buster' quilt. Using a light, medium and dark strip from one color family, you can turn triangles into 3-D boxes of fun.

I'm available to teach at your guild or local quilt shop and I even do private classes in your home for you and your favorite quilting buddies. Contact me at

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

I learned something today: I have a LOT to learn

Ask any kid in school if they like history and I’ll bet the vast majority will say ‘no’. All those dates to memorize, presidents to learn, battles to read about, facts to dissect-- personally, as a kid, I never really understood why we needed to know all that stuff. I guess I’d never had a teacher who impressed upon me that knowing what came before us directly and completely makes us who we turn out to be.

My husband somehow understood this from a young age and his enthusiasm for history has played a large part in my desire to devour every bit I can find on certain subjects, one of which is quilting.

I have a small collection of antique quilts and have a lecture on the subject in which I talk about my experience finding quilts at small-town auctions, tag sales, thrift, antique and junk shops, along with some anecdotes on the history of quilting and fabric in America. It’s a rather entertaining lecture if I’m to believe attendees and I’m always trying to increase my knowledge of these treasures by reading, taking classes and attending seminars on the subject, when available, to keep my lecture fresh and up-to-date.

Every time I do, I realize what a vast amount of information there is out there about how our forebears fostered our passion for quilt-making.

A couple of Sundays ago, I spent several hours with some fascinating historians. Most of us would think of these particular individuals as quilters but because of their desire to know about old quilts and their search into the making of quilts that came before us, they become something more.

Julie Silber and Joe Cunningham (of The Quilt Complex http://www.thequiltcomplex .com) and Barbara Brackman held the seminar, “Julie and Joe’s Quilt Adventure,” entralling a lucky roomfull of quilt buffs with their knowledge of why people made the quilts they made and when and where they made them. This particular day was spent at the San Jose Quilt Museum where the exhibit “Still Crazy”--as in crazy quilts--was on display. Learning that the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia was the empetus for the inspiration that became a crazy quilt frenzy from roughly 1883-1893, threw me not into the art of putting pieces of cloth and fancy embriodery stitches together, but the churning, changing, complex mix of people, world trade and world events that is this fascinating subject, history.

Crazy quilts have never really appealed to me. It might be because they tend to be dark and heavy, or that most of the ones I’ve seen are in bad condition or unfinished. But when surrounded by crazy quilts that are highly embellished works of art, truly the best of the best, the quilter in me develops an instant bond with these treasures and I suddenly have no trouble understanding why quilters’ needles were taken up to produce what became epic stories and some, masterpieces.

I’ll bet most quilters don’t give a thought to how this art, this pastime, this passion of ours got started; where did all these patterns come from? who, what and where was their inspiration? why has there been the ebb, flow, fad and craze of certain patterns in certain decades? I encourage all quilters to pursue these questions at every opportunity and I can think of no better teachers than you’ll find at The Quilt Complex.