Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall Blog Hop Giveaway

It is starting - The Fall Blog Hop.  I am so excited to be participating.  If you click on the scarecrow to the right, it will lead you to all the blogs that are participating.  The idea is we want you to visit our blogs and get to know us a little.  Maybe you'll find something you like and become a fan.  In exchange for taking a look, we want to give you a chance to win something.  So click away and follow each bloggers rules.

But before you do that, don't forget to enter my giveaway.
To qualify for my freebies, just follow my directions.
My rules for my giveaway are:
1. Leave me a comment on my blog (= 1 entry)
2.  Become a Follower (= 2 entries)
3.  Add my blog address and mention my giveaway on your list of blogs (=3 entries)

Don't forget to leave your e-mail address and blog address if apropos.  I will pick the winner on October 15th and will ship the giveaway, free of charge to anywhere in the world.  I want to include all of you international quilters/embroiderers.  So what is my giveaway?
5 Different Hand Dyed Thread

All to one.  So hop away!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Go Phillies!

I am not a big sports fan and neither is my husband.  We don't spend Sunday afternoons or Monday nights watching sports.  But I love when one of the teams in Philadelphia  is heading to the big game.  The Philadelphia Phillies, a baseball team for those of you that don't know, just won the National League East Championship and could be heading to the World Series. 

So I become a huge fan.  I root for the team and keep my fingers crossed that they win.  But it's not about the game or the title.  It's about how a winning team galvanizes a city. All of a sudden, we live up to our name of the City of Brotherly Love.  We're on the same side, rooting for men that are playing with a ball.  Everyone is happy.  It dominates the news.  Sometimes I even sneak a peek when the game is on TV.

Go Phillies!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Half Square Triangles

 HST?  Is this really an appropriate name for this quilt block construction? Half Square Triangle sounds like it should end up being a triangle.  But it's really a square made up of 2 right angle triangles.  It is really a very useful building block.  HSTs can be put together in many, many, many, many ways to form many, many quilt patterns. The options are endless.

I am working on a project where I need 320 HSTs.  The basic way to make them would be to sew together 2 triangles.  This would be a slow and tedious process.  There are easier, quicker ways.  You can measure and draw a grid on your fabric or you can use a product called Thangles.  My favorite method is to cut 2 squares, put them right sides together and sew 1/4" on either side of the diagonal.  If you cut the squares 7/8" larger than the finished size of the block, you will end up with 2 identical HSTs when you cut along the diagonal line, hopefully the exact size that you need.  There are several ways of determining the diagonal line which range from actually drawing it to eyeballing it to some gadgets that you put on the bed of your sewing machine.  All of these methods are great for scrappy quilts.

I like the method where you start with 2 squares.  Since, precision is not my forte, I actually cut my squares larger than what I really need, about 1/2" larger.  For example, if I need a 2 1/2" finished HST, I will cut my starting squares 3  3/4 ".  Then after sewing, cutting apart and pressing them open , I trim them to the desired size with a bias square ruler.

As my friend Christine was watching me sew all of these individual squares. he suggested another method to make more HSTs at a time, instead of just 2.        I started with two 8 1/2" squares, drawing diagonal lines across the wrong side of the lighter square and a vertical and a horizontal line.  You sew  1/4" on either side of the diagonal lines and then you cut on ALL of the lines, ending up with EIGHT HSTs.  It was a beautiful thing.  Thanks CK for teaching me something new.

By starting with HSTs that are precisely the exact size, it gives me a better chance of ending up with points that match when I put my blocks together.  I like that.  I need that.

 Now back to those 320 HSTs for my new project inspired by my trip to Barcelona.
320 HSTs!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Girlfriends Quilting Getaway

Three days of quilting, eating, talking, and fabric dyeing with four of your  best girlfriends (plus a doggie girlfriend) on a beautiful lake in the Pocono Mountains.  Nothing could be better to recharge your soul, your friendships and your creative juices.  Since I am the owner of this "retreat house", I really get the best deal of all.  These friends of mine do not allow me to cook, do the dishes or clean!  It can't get any better than that.

Everyone brings their own projects to work on.   I used to bring a new design to work on.  I would be giving my brain quite a workout. It turned out that it was great having my friends there for input, but I never finished anything.  On the other hand,  my friends would bring multiple projects with the fabrics already cut and they would power sew.  They got so much done.  I have now adopted their methods.  Finishing the tops for two braid quilts for this mountain home were on my agenda.  I decided I needed to use up my stash of homespun fabrics.  I cut it all up into 3"x8" rectangles.  I started it at our last getaway during our retreat in Maryland (at our alternate location) and I finished it during this retreat.  It's headed to my wonderful longarmer, Susie Rocabaldo, and when they are back, I'll share them.

We cut back on the food this year but still had way to much.  The winner of the most creative cooking award went to this cake, a quatro flavoraggio (a take off on pasta a quatro fromaggios).  Of course you had to have four pieces to taste each of the four flavors of frosting.  It was so yummy. 

We ate lunch and dinner on the dock, sometimes with a beautiful sunset.
And we spent a morning dyeing fabric in baggies and also dyeing thread outside.  That was so much fun and so productive that we had to run out and buy more fabric!

At the end of our 4th day, the weather was the most beautiful of all.  We just had to sit on the dock one more time to chat and think about what lucky girls we are!

So,to share this wonderful experience, I am thinking about offering retreats at my lake house that would include a 3 day workshop and delicious meals down on the dock.  I could accommodate 5 people.  If you have any interest,  shoot me an e-mail.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza

Today was the opening day of PNQE located in Oaks, PA.  I volunteered to white glove for my quilt guild.  This enables us to sell tickets for our raffle quilt at the show.  For those of you unfamiliar with the term whitegloving, you volunteer to walk around an assigned area wearing white gloves.  This allows you to touch the quilts and turn them over to show people the backs.  The attendees of the show are not allowed to touch.  It's a lot of fun when there are quilts with amazing back art.

I have a quilt in the show called "Primitive Seasons".  It is part of my Americana folk art series. I was thrilled to find out that it earned a Judges Choice ribbon.  Yipppeee!

My friends photographing my quilt and its ribbon!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Searching For Tiles In Barcelona

I am home, safe, sound and happy from my trip overseas. I have mixed feelings abut cruising, but there is one thing I can say for sure.  Having only unpacked my bag once after getting on the ship, we visited North Africa, Malta, Italy, France and Spain.  That's 5 counties in 7 days.  I think that is one of the beauties of cruising.

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting with  Bénédicte Bodard.  I wanted to wait to write about her until I got home, to make sue that I was able to devote a lot of time and thought to her and about her.  She is an amazing woman.  But first I want to give you a little background.

I have been a little reticent to share my most exciting news.  Some of you that have attended my lectures know and some of you who have visited my website know.  Some of you may have pieced together bits and pieces of info from my blog may know.  I have a book coming out in January called Quilt Fiesta - Surprising Designs From Mexican Tiles. The book was a result from a trip to Mexico.  I fell in love with Mexican folk art and the possibilities that could result from taking the designs from Mexican tiles and creating quilt designs.  It will be available in January and can be pre-ordered from Amazon or from me. 

So you can understand that I am extremely interested in tiles from anywhere in the world.  I own several books published by Pipin Press that just have drawing after drawing of tiles in them.  One of them focuses on the tiles of Barcelona.  With the impending Barcelona trip, a little internet research turned up Bénédicte's name.  So I contacted her.  We agreed to meet, and I had no idea what I would learn. 
Our second day in Barcelona, my husband and I took the Metro to her apartment, where I learned all about hydraulic cement tiles, which are made in a completely different way than the ceramic tiles with which I am familiar.  These tiles were popular 100-150 years ago.  Now when people are remodeling their homes, they are tearing them up and throwing them away.  Bénédicte loves these tiles and believes they are an integral part of history.  So  when she finds out about the demolition, she goes dumpster diving to save them!  She then carts them back to her workshop and cleans them up.  This makes it sound like it is a simple process, but it is far from that.  Some of the tiles have a layer of cement still attached to them from the cement bed in which they were laid.  So the cement has to be removed without breaking the tile and then the tiles usually need to be cleaned and polished.  To show off the beauty of these tiles, she mounts them in small wrought iron tables or framed to hang on the wall.

I could go on and on.  The tiles are beautiful and they are primarily from Spain's  Modernista era which is equivalent to our Art Nouveau.  Unlike glazed, shiny ceramic tiles, these tiles are mat and the colors are beautifully subdued.  Oooh, the possibilities for quilts are endless.  So instead of continuing to write on and on, I'll share my photos.  And don't forget to go to Bénédicte's blog.

The door to Bénédicte 's  workshop.  I had no idea what I had in store.       

My first impression as the door was opened and we entered the basement workshop.  She spends hours and hours down here each day rescuing these tiles.
Piles of tiles.
Bénédicte showing the cement on the back of a tile with stacks of cleaned and sorted tiles behind her.
A table created from 4 tiles.  You can find tables like these for sale on her blog.

This is one of my favorite tiles that really makes me think of William Morris and the Craftsman style of houses.
And the bonus to the visit was a gift of three tiles, as they were rescued, complete with the cement.  We had to do some juggling with our luggage to deal with the weight issue flying home, but it was so worth it.  I can't wait to start designing some new quilts.

Some original floors look like rugs with interior and border tiles.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Photos For Foodies

When my husband and I travel, we love checking out the local food scene.  We don’t necessarily go to the high end places to eat.  We want to see where the locals eat and buy their food.  So we look for supermarkets and outdoor markets.  In Europe, it’s so much fun to eat at the sidewalk cafes and people watch while we eat.  I loved the look of this one in Tunisia.
One of the restaurants that we had to try was Zeffirino in Genoa, Italy.  The last 2 Popes have eaten there and the restaurant is famous for their pasta with pesto sauce.  Genoa was where pesto was created – a sauce of bay leaves, oil and pine nuts.  It’s yummy.  It was a big meal for us for lunch, but it was delish.
They brought us their photo albums of the Popes’ visits.  It was quite impressive and had many photos of a Zefferino brother (there are 5) with the Pope and bay leaves being made into large jars of pesto.  The Maitre D’ listed many of the famous people that have eaten there and then said “and now you!”.

When we go to the local supermarkets, the hunt is on for regional food.  On this trip we checked out all of the olive oil and in Spain we looked for the different types of ham.  This ham that still had the leg and hoof attached was enough to make me turn vegetarian!


We also use the trip to the supermarket to stock up on bottled water and my drink of choice – Diet Coke or Coca Cola Light as they call it.

But the most exciting way to see how the locals eat is to find their fresh food markets.  Everything from fruits and vegetables, fish, meat, bread, spices and candy are sold there.  It seems like every town has at least one.  My favorite market this trip was the one in Aix-en-Provence in France. There has been a market there every day since the 12th century.   I seem to be a little partial to France of all the countries I have visited.  I am comfortable with the language, but maybe I was French in a past life!.  But the reason I liked this particular market so much was that it not only had local produce, but also local products, like honey, soaps, lavender sachets and herbes de Provence.  I did some damage there!  And don’t you love their table covers?
I also had to check out the fabric while I was in Aix.  Provence is well known for a particular style that I learned was first provided by the Chinese, many years ago.  Then some enterprising Frenchmen decided to make their own.  It is really beautiful fabric.  But the price???  It made me realize how lucky we are in the states with the abundance and price of cotton fabric.  The price was 33 euros/meter.  A meter is about 39”, so only a little more than a yard and right now 33 euros would be the equivalent of $44.00 US.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Cruise Ships

A few years ago we visited Venice, Italy.  During my morning walk, I saw the most atrocious thing – a cruise ship in the harbor.  This cruise ship dwarfed this dainty, quaint city.  It towered above the beautiful street with the laundry hanging on the clothes lines, zig zagging inbetween the buildings. It ruined the moment.   I thought it was so sad.  And I couldn't even think about the thongs of people descending upon the city. 

So now we are on a cruise.  Starting in Barcelona, we are traveling around part of the Mediterranean. Was I conflicted about this trip?  Yes I was.  But so many people have told us how much they love cruising and you don’t have to continually pack and unpack, that we decided to try it. 


We have been to Tunisia, Malta and today we stopped in Sicily.  My favorite part is sitting on our balcony watching the ocean go by,  I love the water and I don’t think I will ever grow tired of it – the sound, the smell, the view.  I did take a photo in Sicily – not of our ship – to show how ugly a cruise ship can make a city look:


But on the other hand, it is hard to find views like these, if you were on the shore.  These photos are just a couple of many that I took  from our balcony.




                                         Messina, Sicily

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Barcelona Eye Candy


Walking the streets of Barcelona has been an amazing experience.  It is a modern city that is alive and full of people.  The old is juxtaposed with the modern.  I have limited access to the internet, so for now I will share some of the amazing architecture that I have seen. 


A close-up of one of the wrought iron door arches.


Casa Vicens - Gaudi

brc78 barc6

I had to share these photos for those of you who know how much I love bicycling. Although I have been in other cities where there have been racks of bikes for rent,  I have never seen a stoplight with a green light for bikes.


Unfinished spires of Gaudi’s grand work – La Sagrada Familia


Casa Batilo – another Gaudi design


Amazing tiles

barc7 (2)

What’s with the advertising?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Doors of Barcelona


We arrived in Barcelona on Friday. Thank you for all of your well wishes.   The 7 hour plus flight went pretty fast and they even gave us dinner.  I couldn’t wait to see all of the different architecture. I thought Gaudi and tiles were going to be the highlight for me.  Instead I have been blown over by their wrought iron detailing – their doors, balconies, window grills. 

It is such a coincidence that there has been so much of it that is so different and so beautiful.  I give a presentation tilted “Inspiration From Squiggles and Dots”. It’s all about finding inspiration from stuff.  Stuff like sidewalks, wallpaper, fence railings, Mexican tiles, and wrought iron.  I am currently working on a piece that has been inspired by wrought iron that I have seen in many different places. 

So I would like to share my version of the doors of……. Barcelona.  The variety offers countless sources of inspiration. Click on each door if you woula like to see more detail.

door1 door4 door7door8