One Quilter’s Summer Break: Making Colorful Food + An Announcement

Beautiful summer roses, just for fun. Sadly, not from garden but from a friend's.
Beautiful summer roses, just for fun. Sadly, not from garden but from a friend’s.

Other than no rain, which is a real problem here in California, we’re experiencing a beautiful summer:  clear blue skies, mild temperatures, and soft breezes. Sometimes it’s just too pretty outside and I have to stow my tools and ignore my stash (although I’m making serious progress on two simultaneous projects!). Why not? Color play can be found in other venues and I’m open to adventure.

Now this is a weird thing to admit, but I’m prone to color matching my grocery shopping, especially in the produce aisles. Really? I don’t know why, but I just do. It’s an unconscious act–I swear! (I did confess to my foible at the get-go in my first SHWS blog post.)

Just this morning I had another of my moments as I sat at the kitchen table with a cup of tea, yoghurt, and the third installment of Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander saga–a real fave to reread especially with the ongoing Starz series. (Love Claire and Jamie!) I glanced from my book to a fruit basket filled with sunny golden apples, ripening Bartlett pears, bright yellow bananas and lemons, and, for contrast, limes and green-black avocados. The red tomatoes were exiled to the kitchen counter because they didn’t make the color cut. Does this quirk bear further examination? Probably not, but it does segue to . . . colorful summertime kitchen adventures!

Inspiration-J:  Raspberries

As it turns out, abundant seasonal fruit has led me to a recent and rather fattening exploration of making gelato from farmers market spoils. My sister gave me a copy of The Ciao Bella Book of Gelato and Sorbetto and I’ve been a mad scientist ever since with blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries.

Inspiration-J:  Blueberry gelato
Tasting the first batch of blueberry gelato. Lesson learned: strain the fruit for a smoother finish!

At a recent company gathering, I paired my raspberry and blueberry gelatos with fresh peach sorbetto and an orange-blossom-scented olive oil cake (sounds weird, but truly sublime) made by a talented co-worker. Believe me the dessert tasted as wonderful as it looked and it delivers a fabulous color story too. Not only does this image tantalize me with its interesting palette, I’m intrigued with the proportion of the neutral tones to the dessert colors. Excellent quilt design fodder!

Inspiration-J:  Summer dessert
From left to right: fresh peach sorbetto, blueberry and strawberry gelatos.

At the other extreme of summer cooking, I’ve been making gazpacho–gotta to counter the gelato calories somehow. Talk about stupidly easy to make:  throw beautiful summer tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and peppers into a veggie-crushing blender and press start. (Full disclosure:  red wine vinegar, olive oil, good quality vegetable juice, red pepper flakes, and salt & pepper) And, if you are anything like color-mad Jennifer, you select the soup fodder by color:  I’ve made traditional red as well as a range of yellow to orange varieties.

Inspiration-J:  Gazpacho ingredients

These summer days I’m all about throwing back a shot of gazpacho when my energy takes a nosedive or taking a generous cup to work for lunch. The challenge is going to be finding  a fall/winter soup that is as colorful, tasty, and easy to make/store.

Inspiration-J: Gazpacho cocktails
Be on trend with your entertaining: shots of gazpacho!

That’s it from my colorful non-quilting adventures, but I’ve got to wonder: are there others like me out there? Does your passion for crafting crossover in weird ways to other parts of your life?

p.s.  For those of you planning to be in Northern California in late September, a fun event on the horizon, Quilting in the Garden! (Click the image for details.)

Dates & Places-J:  Quilting in the Garden 2014

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Under Wraps: A Peek at a Summertime Fabric Fling

Fabric-J:  Gelato ombre Schenck
A lovely pink ombre from the Gelato series offered by E.E. Schenck.

Like last week’s guest blogger Christine Barnes, I too have a strong liking for ombre fabric. While I absolutely love Christine’s deft hand with color and value play as she builds her blocks, my typical take on ombre is to use it to make flower petals for dimensional applique.

Project-J:  Blossom made of color-changing fabric
I cannot remember where I bought this perfect flower-making print, but I wish I had a bolt!

Clever cuts of fabric can yield petals kissed by sunlight at the tips and darker shadows where the petals grow from the flower stems (or the reverse as shown above). Or, also beguiling, bi-color petals which can be folded and shaped to form realistic flower buds.

Project-J:  Rosebud
Although hard to discern the value differences, this rosebud is made from one ombre fabric.

That’s been my recurring task for much of the summer:  cutting and sewing petals and leaves. No, not 90 days of flower making 24/7–I’m not that insane–a few hours here and there over three months preparing to make a dimensional appliqué floral still life.

Project-J:  Using ombre fabric to make blossoms
Blossoms made from red and pink ombre fabrics–the same pink featured in the rosebud.

Some quilting projects are piecing extravaganzas:  pedal to the metal, innumerable passes of a rotary cutter through fabric, and sweating over a steaming iron. That’s not my way with dimensional appliqué quilts. The grueling part is the preparation–composing the still life is almost anti-climactic. Gotta say I’m about to take on that challenge; after weeks of labor I’m ready to roll.  (But not ready to share yet–stay tuned!)

Congratulations to Monica, the winner of the giveaway goodies from Christine Barnes.

J-Signature

 

 

 

He’s Here, He’s Here (Again): It’s Christmas in July at SHWS!

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by JenniferSeriously, Jennifer? Christmas in July?  It’s +90º outside!

Yes! It’s time to get started. As I was super late delivering the Santa Smiles Tree Skirt pattern last year, I thought I’d throw this out to you well before the holidays.

Available in Print Today: Santa Smiles!

I’ve finally got the print version of the pattern instructions ready for industrious Christmas elves!  Yeah!

You’ll be delighted to know that the instructions come with a full set of the paper-piecing patterns:  3 Santas + 3 trees!  FYI:  I’ve priced Santa Smiles to include shipping to the U.S., to Canada, and to international quilters wherever you may be.

Click the image below or visit our Pattern Library to learn more.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles announcementCheck it Out:  Santa Goes Mod & Shakes Up Christmas Decor

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by MarnieLast Christmas, I had an opportunity to teach Santa Smiles at my local quilt shop, Wooden Gate Quilts in Danville, California. It’s always a treat to see how quilters take on one of my patterns and how they express their aesthetic through their fabric choices. Imagine my surprise when an intrepid novice quilt maker flashed an array of charcoals, silvery tones, icy blues, and whites.

Wow! Why didn’t I think of that? I was seriously intrigued by Marnie Durbin’s choices and by Marnie herself. She’d only made one enormous quilt, a minimalist design that she machine pieced and quilted on a smallish sewing machine, before tackling the tree skirt. I tell ya, I was awed by her derring-do, and seriously impressed by her speed, tenacity, and workmanship.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by Marnie

Then, when you put all the silvery blue and gray blocks together, you get a rather fabulous and daring tree skirt.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by Marnie

Can you believe it’s only the second quilted project Marnie’s sewn and machine quilted?Yowza!

I’m throwing in my version below so you can see that Santa Smiles tree skirt can be interpreted in classic and novel ways.

Pattern-J:  Santa Smiles by Jennifer

Giveaway Results Here

Definitely, keep Kleenex handy when you read the comments from my Tuesday post. You are all generous, loving, wonderful quilters and I sniffled my way through all your stories. Do you suppose we could create a peaceful world if we gave handmade quilts to everyone? “Here ya go, wrap up in this beautiful quilt and take it down a notch or three!”

Congratulations to Annette R., Diane Linker, and Sheila at License to Quilt, the winners of the Heart Strings pattern.

Add a stitch for a better world . . . Peace Out! Image-J:  Peace Out

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See How a Quilt Design Evolves–The Many Faces of “Heartstrings” + Giveaway

Quilt-J:  Original Heart Strings Quilt

Quilt-J:  Heartstrings featured in The Quilt Life1-Giveaway IconNot so long ago I spearheaded a group project for a member of my quilting/dining group–she’d lost her mother and we wanted to give her a quilted hug. It was such a beautiful shared experience that I wrote about it for the February 2012 issue of  The Quilt Life and called the quilt Heart Strings.

 The Other Faces of Heart Strings 

Some time after that, our original SHWS quartet of Christie, Darra, Laura, and I made another version of Heart Strings for our very dear tech-savvy blog helper Michelle. She had had to say good-bye to her mother after a lengthy illness and we wanted to gather her up in a big group hug. It’s difficult to discern from a distance, but Heart Strings #2 is embellished with a stitched tree and flitting hummingbirds, the deft handiwork of long-arm quilter Marla Monson

Quilt-J:  Heart Strings hanging at Quilting in the Garden
Heart Strings #2 featured in the 2012 Quilting in the Garden exhibition, Livermore, California.

Then, just this year, as I was reading the June 2014 issue of The Quilt Life, I found a Letter to the Editor from a reader named Carol Findling who wrote about making a version of Heart Strings with her group for a friend who needed support after losing a daughter. They finished their version in three weeks to surprise her:  Heart Strings #3.

Is there more? Of course. My buddy Cyndy Rymer and I share more than a love of quilting, we also share a gynecologist:  a rare and wonderful physician who dropped the obstetrics end of the business to focus on women of a certain age. I don’t know how many locals she’s pulled from the brink of hormonal madness and other malevolent afflictions, but the numbers are legion and our admiration for her is profound and enduring.

Well, the sad news is that sometimes even healers need healing. She’s closing her practice to undergo intense cancer treatment. Cyndy and I cannot sever our connection to her without expressing our love and heartfelt wishes for her recovery. What else can we do but make her a quilt imbued with positive, healing thoughts?

Quilt-J:  Final stages neutral Heart Strings
Almost done: Heart Strings #4.

Before I stow my damp and crumpled Kleenex and finish today’s theme, I’d like to share one more thought about heartfelt quilts. Sure we make many celebration quilts, but we also make them for poignant reasons. As I tackled this post I was finally able to verbalize the reason I take on these quilts: I want that someone to know that he or she matters! How simple is that?

A Variation on the Heart Strings Theme

1.  Cyndy and I worked on the original Heart Strings and we knew it would work for us, but, to change up things, we went neutral. And, wouldn’t you know, Cyndy just happened to have a stash of unfinished neutral blocks in her UFO pile. We were halfway there without even trying!

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings

2.  Rather than a string of hearts, we opted for roses for the finishing detail. I turned to one of my own designs, Radically Ruched Roses.  This time I went for a fused spiral rose  rather than ruching bias strips to make the spirals–ruching isn’t fodder for a quickie quilt! After my recent Quilt-Along fusing frenzy it was an easy decision. Head’s up:  Radically Ruched Roses is available as free a downloadable pattern in our Pattern Library!

Quilt-J:  Madly Mod Rosie

3.  The leaves and stems also derive from Radically Ruched Roses–turns out I, too, had leftovers to donate to our cause. I pinned the strips in gentle waves and, before gluing them in place, I auditioned a layout of blossoms and leaves.

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings Draft Layout

4. Did you notice that the top was layered and quilted before we added the flowers and greenery? Cyndy loaded the quilt onto her long-arm machine and chose a simple floral motif for background quilting.

Quilt-J:  Neutral Heart Strings in Process

5.  Back to the stem strips:  Glue-Baste-It!  Laura recommended the product and it’s a dream for securing the applique pieces before finishing with stitches. I finished the edges with decorative stitches along the outer edges of the stems to give them a slightly thorny look. Then, Cyndy reloaded the quilt on the long-arm and stitched the leaves and roses to the top. The jury is out on whether or not that was a good idea–it wasn’t as much fun as she’d hoped. FYI:  The roses are dimensional appliqué (with an additional thin layer of batting on the back) and the spirals are top stitched.

 

6.  I’ve got the label affixed, stray threads trimmed, and so I think we’re ready to send out our healing quilt.

Heart Strings #4: yes, that is a spaniel sculpture--he wanted to be featured in the photo too! He's supposed to live in the garden as a remembrance of a very dear dog, but this guy likes the hearth.
Heart Strings #4: yes, that is a spaniel sculpture–he wanted to be featured in the photo too! He’s supposed to live in the garden as a remembrance of a very dear dog, but this guy likes the hearth.

Giveaway Details

I happen to have full-color reprints of the Heart Strings article and pattern from The Quilt Life and I’d be happy to share 3 copies with our readers. Leave me a comment by Thursday, July 24 and I will name the winners in my Friday post. Here’s your prompt:  Have you made a heartfelt quilt? Do tune in on Friday for a special edition cuz a seasonal fave will be flying in!

J-Signature

 

Quilt-Along Mini Project: Tiny Wreath + Birds = A Quilted Picture!

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini Project

There’s nothing like a deadline to stimulate my brain cells. Last week I had to devise a birthday gift for a dear friend and, lucky for me, I had both time at my disposal (a couple hours for a few consecutive mornings while a contractor worked at my home) and I had a handy box of scraps from our Blackbirds & Blossoms Oh-La-La Quilt-Along.

Since my birthday buddy quite liked the wreath I made for the center block of the Quilt-Along, I decided to design a scaled-down version and work out some of the construction ideas that I rushed through the first time around. Now I’m not going to supply detailed instructions here, I riffed on the process and I think you’ll be able to as well. (Click here for  the instructions for the original wreath block.) I started with a square of linen about 12 x 12 inches. The wreath base is 8 inches in diameter and about 2 inches wide.

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini ProjectFirst, I auditioned my floral scraps and trimmed some circles to more appropriate sizes for the reduced scale of the wreath.

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini ProjectThen I removed the blossoms and worked on the layout of the greenery. (I didn’t change the leaf sizes or the stem widths from the original instructions.) Once I decided on the layout, I fused the greenery and added stitched details with variegated green thread.

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini ProjectBack to blossom placement:  Turns out I had some empty spaces once I replaced the flowers and so I had to find a design solution.

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini ProjectNo worries there, turns out the perfect answer was sitting in my stash: an Echino bird print from designer Etsuko Furuya. I added decorative stitches once all the remaining pieces were fused into place.

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini Project

Now I wanted this little quilt to look like a piece of wall art–a drawing surrounded by a white matte– so I had to build the quilt sandwich very carefully to retain the flatness of each layer. I adapted some of Darra’s techniques from her clever postcard quilts.

I sewed 3-inch white linen border strips to the wreath block (side to side, then top and bottom); stay stitched raw edges; trimmed and rolled up all stray threads; and then fused the bordered block to a relatively stiff interfacing.Then I fused the backing fabric to wool batting and fused that layer to the interfaced layer. I finished the quilt with the faced binding and anchoring corners you see above.

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini ProjectThat’s a detailed view of the finished front–my goal was a pared down, clean-lined look.

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini ProjectHere’s the birthday label:  if I’d actually thought ahead, I would’ve stitched the label to the backing before I fused all the layers together for a more polished finish. Oh well!

Quilt-J:  Quilt-Along Mini ProjectHere ya go:  a slighted crooked image of the finished mini wreath quilt. It’s about 20 x 20 inches.

Giveaway Winners Here!

Wow! Yoko Saito adoration is spreading . . . I love the enthusiastic reception for her pattern line and I’m certain World Book Media is happy as well to hear such positive reactions from fans. The winners are Judy C., Jane from MA, Julie Boster, Jacqueline, and Kay. Congratulations all! Do share photos of your handiwork!

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Yoko Saito Redux: English-Language Patterns Available Now + Giveaway!

Inspiration-J:  Summer Flowers
Happy summer solstice (a little tardy). My parents celebrated their 68th anniversary on the 21st–holy guacamole that’s a lonnggg shared history! Felicitations to all those June brides and grooms!

1-Giveaway IconLooks like I’m not the only Yoko Saito fan in search of English-language versions of her patterns. (BTW:  Here’s the link to my earlier Yoko Saito post.) World Book Media out of Salem, Massachusetts has entered the market with a Japanese Quilt Artist Series pattern line (translated into English) featuring Yoko Saito for their debut as well as Zakka Workshop projects–quick and fun scrap-friendly projects made in mere hours. Both product lines are available at World Book Media’s Etsy site.

Let’s take a look at the Yoko Saito quilt pattern fare:

Patterns-J:  Joko Saito Series

Would you like to see more?  Here are my top 2:

Love, love, love this pattern!
Love, love, love this pattern!

Yoko Saito creates evocative designs with such simple touches like outrageously perfect fabric choices. Also, her simple quilting motif enhances the blossoming cherry trees and stars without being overwhelming.

That melting snowman featured below is so charming and just a little poignant. (Plus she finds yet another perfect venue for her bare trees fabric.)

Isn't this the cutest winter mini quilt?
Isn’t this the cutest winter mini quilt?

The remaining trio of patterns are fun projects for personal use and home decor. The Afternoon Tea Mats pattern makes me laugh for the eccentric use of language–short . . . cake maybe?

Pattern-J:  Yoko SaitoPattern-J:  Yoko SaitoPattern-J:  Yoko Saito

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Giveaway Details

I’m looking for 5 winners this week. Yup, 5! No guarantees which pattern you’ll receive.  Random drawing, random numbering on the patterns as well. Leave me a comment by Thursday, June 26 and I will announce the winners in my Friday post. Answer this question: Given the opportunity to win a pattern, would you go Yoko Saito neutral or color mad?

On Friday I’ll be featuring a small birthday project I adapted from the center wreath block of the Quilt-Along: Blackbirds & Blossoms Oh-La-La! I hope you’ll stop by and find inspiration!

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Gwen Marston Retrospective at See How We Sew + Giveaway Winner

Quilt-J: Gwen Marston Quilt Featured in Minimal Quiltmaking
“Turquoise” 41 x 45 inches, 2013, by Gwen Marston.

Hello dear readers! Gwen Marston is always a hit when we feature her at See How We Sew. Today we’ll take a look at more quilts from her latest AQS title, Minimal Quiltmaking, and revisit past posts about Gwen written by our blogging sister Darra. Gwen and Darra have been both friends and collaborators for years. In fact, Darra’s skilled editorial hand can be experienced in a number of Gwen’s quilting books. Keep scrolling to find the name of the lucky winner of Minimal Quiltmaking.

Throwback Posts

Darra gave us a peek into Gwen’s creative process back in February of this year in The Latest from that Amazing Quilter Gwen Marston.

And, before that in 2012, Working in a Series Gwen Marston and 37 Sketches.

 

Quilt-J:  Gwen Marston Quilt Featured in Minimal Quiltmaking
Minimal in Neutrals, 35 x 35 inches, 2012, by Gwen Marston

Giveaway Winner

And the winner is, Kathy in Florida–Congratulations! Many thanks to Gwen Marston for her continuing support of See How We Sew. Perhaps she’ll return for a visit soon?!? I hope so!

Final thoughts from Jennifer:  I’m taken by Gwen’s works of quilted art.  Can’t you just see these painting-sized quilts adorning the walls of a modern art museum? What if we started a grassroots movement to persuade our fine arts venues to open their galleries to our textile arts? Just a thought . . . we’ve got our Studio Art Quilters and any number of other art quilt groups. Time to come out of the shadows and into the limelight with the rest of the artsy crowd!

J-Signature

 

 

 

 

Gwen Marston Drops By to Share Minimal Quiltmaking (+ a Giveaway!)

We’ve got a special treat today at SHWS:  Gwen Marston is in the house! Yup, she’s going to review her latest and greatest quilting title, Minimal Quiltmaking. Sure, it’s unorthodox having an author write her own book review, but why not? She’s Gwen Marston and she’s super fabulous! Scroll to the end of the post for giveaway details–here’s a hint:  enter to win a copy of her new title.

Hello everyone! I’ve been invited to write a review of my new book Minimal Quiltmaking so let me say right upfront: it’s going to be very favorable!

Book-J:  Minimal Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston

It’s always a thrill when I get to see a just-off-the-press copy of my latest book for the first time. In the case of my most recent book, Minimal Quiltmaking (AQS Publishing, 2014), I couldn’t have been more pleased. Reviewers are calling it “beautiful” and I have to agree.

I’ve always been the “less is more” girl, preferring straightforward, uncluttered design so keeping it simple, aka minimal, is my natural default setting. This book includes both examples of my early minimal work and more recent pieces as well. It also includes the exciting work of twenty-two contemporary quilters (some are also quilt teachers) from across the country. I was so very pleased to be able to include their work in my book because it adds an indispensable flavor that makes it all the more tasty.

The book (95 pages, $24.95) has lots of full-page color pictures of the quilts and is packed with design and construction tips on how you can make your own original quilts without patterns using my “liberated”, intuitive, free-pieced methods. So, let me show you some of the quilts in my new book.

Discovering Lancaster Country Amish quilts in the early 80’s set me off on a virtual tangent of making quilts in that style as a way to understand the Amish sense of design and use of color. It also taught me the value of working with solid fabrics, which I’ve continued to do to this day.

ONE PATCH, made in 1990, was the first in a series of thirteen minimal quilts, all shown in the book, inspired by the Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh (1868-1928).

Quilt-J:  Gwen Marston's Quilt One-Patch from Minimal Quiltmaking

I have a chapter about Hard-Edge Quilts, inspired by a California art movement from the 1960’s called “hard-edge painting”. MINIMAL COMPOSITION is in that chapter.

Screen shot 2014-06-11 at 4.48.18 PM

I talk about the process of designing minimal quilts, how to apply the principles of minimal art to create your own distinctive work, and give suggestions on where to find inspiration for working in this style.

And to whet your appetite, here is a small sampling of the stunning quilts made by made by contributing quilt artists included in the book.

Quilt-J:  Split Cherry by Marjorie Tucker in Minimal QuiltmakingSPLIT CHERRY, by Marjorie Tucker, from Boston, Mass, and MINIMAL PURPLE, made by Kristin Shields, from Bend, Oregon, are both contemporary quilt artists and teachers who have their own style and definitely know what they are doing.

Quilt-J: Minimal Purple by Kristin Shields in Minimal QuiltmakingI hope you enjoy the book as much as I did writing it. Carry on! GM

Giveaway Details Here!

Leave a comment by Thursday afternoon, June 19, answering the question:  What’s your quilting pleasure:  less is more or more is more? I’ll announce the winner of an autographed copy of Minimal Quiltmaking by Gwen Marston in the Friday post. We’ll also take a look a more quilts from Gwen’s new title and revisit retired blogging sister Darra’s past posts on Gwen’s quilting style.

See ya!

J-Signature

An Empty Spools Scrapbook in Words and Photos

Dates & Places-J:  Sunset Pacific Grove, CA
Kelp strand, Asilomar Beach, Pacific Grove, CA.

I think the downside of keeping many balls aloft is trying to launch another one without creating mayhem. That’s probably why quilting classes and retreats are rare for me:  they are difficult to slide into my routine. Although when they do pop up, I like to park those pesky balls and immerse myself in the experience.

That’s just what happened about a month or so ago when I went on a road trip with my compulsive quilt retreater friend Cyndy Rymer. We steered a course southward to the Monterey Coast for the last session of the 2014 season of the Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar.

What’s not to love?  Five days of quilting with a master teacher, camaraderie, seaside hikes, and, best of all, no daily grind at the office, no cooking, and no housekeeping! Perhaps I should stow those balls more often, but I can’t manage Cynderelly’s pace–she’s done +50 classes/retreats to my three!

She Came From the North Pole . . .

Dates & Places-J:  Judy Farrow at Empty Spools 2014Cyndy and I elected to take Canadian Judy Farrow who offered a design class for our week’s immersion.  Neither of us knew much about her so it seemed like a voyage into the unknown, which indeed it was . . .

Upon meeting Judy it’s all to easy to be deceived by her quiet nature and British reserve, but that would be a mistake. She’s spirited, passionate, and very funny. Still, it was surprising to learn that, some 40 years ago, Judy and her husband left comfortable Montreal to teach high school on Baffin Island, a remote and frigid Canadian island that straddles the Arctic Circle. While there, Judy and husband Malcolm travelled extensively by dog team and hunted seals to feed them! These days, after three decades in those northerly climes, she’s ensconced in more-temperate Vancouver.

Dates & Places-J:  Judy Farrow's Moose 2014 Empty SpoolsThat arctic imprint is unmistakable, especially in  her most-renowned quilts, and has served as the starting point for her evolution as quilt artist. (Remarkably, Judy learned the craft from home study of Laura’s curriculum outlined in Quilts!Quilts!!Quilts!!!) Nowadays Judy’s quilting vernacular is very broad and inventive, although still rooted in inspiration from the environments she has encountered.

Quilt-J:  Judy Farrow's award-winning quilt, Snowy Owl Meets West Coast Totems
Snowy Owl Meets West Coast Totems by Judy Farrow

At Work and Play by the Seaside

While communing with a teacher is the major part of the Empty Spools experience, sharing a classroom with a unique set of fellow quilters is the other side of the equation. It’s at once exhilarating and humbling to experience the aesthetics and skills of other quilt makers. It’s also liberating to hitch a ride on another’s point of view and see how she might tackle the same design exercise.

Dates & Places-J:  Judy Farrow design exercise Empty Spools 2014
You’d think 25 blocks would be easy to arrange, but 10 quilters with 10 ideas? Design exercise by Judy Farrow, Empty Spools, 2014.

Another Empty Spools feature is the Artist-in-Residence program. Gail Abeloe, owner of Back Porch Fabrics in Pacific Grove, just down the road from Asilomar, wrapped up the 2014 program with an opening night talk and exhibition of her work. The rest of the week Gail repurposed orphan blocks from her past projects and created brand new quilts. I slotted in daily visits to Gail’s workstation in the main hall, just across the way from Carolie Hensley’s pop-up quilt shop, to see her progress. Wow! It certainly helps that she has the best stash ever (quilt shop owner–duh!) and a superb eye for color.

Dates & Places-J:  Gail Abeloe's posse Empty Spools 2014
Phew, Gail (right) survived her debut as Artist in Residence and shares smiles with her sister, Jill Abeloe Mead, an editor at American Patchwork & Quilting, and mother, Dorothy Abeloe.

Probably the hardest part of quilting by the sea is ignoring the call of the surf, especially when the sun is shining and the breeze carries that salty tang. On “good” days, Cyndy and I walked the shoreline morning, noon, and night, but sometimes we just couldn’t fit in a third stroll what with class work, making friends in the dining hall, and checking out the evening programs offered by Empty Spools.  Although, once we experienced one sublime Pacific sunset, we were hooked for the rest of our stay. See my sunset photo essay below. Three consecutive nights of the setting sun:  same time/same place–each distinct.

Here’s my parting thought about quilt retreats–go when you can and, if Empty Spools is on your horizon, do it!

Dates & Places-J:  Sunset Pacific Grove, CA #1

Dates & Places-J:  Sunset Pacific Grove, CA #2

Dates & Places-J:  Sunset Pacific Grove, CAJ-Signaturep.s.  Did I  forget to mention the picturesque town of Pacific Grove, just a mile or so down the road from Asilomar? Well, it’s eye candy central for many reasons, among them:  Kidwell’s Paint.

Dates & Places-J:  Window eye candy Kidwell's Pacific Grove, CA
Best paint store window ever! Kidwell’s Paint, Pacific Grove, CA.