So What Do Quilts and Pie Fights Have in Common? Get Ready Omaha, Here We Come!

Every summer, I jump on a plane with my hubby and daughters to take our annual trip to Omaha, Nebraska. When I tell people how much I look forward to spending time in Omaha, I often detect that “really, Laura?” look on their faces. But it’s true. In addition to having a great time visiting with the relatives and eating way too much food, one highlight of the trip has become the wild and crazy pie fight. Yes, you heard me right. Those of us wanting to stay clean and who prefer sitting on the sidelines and taking photos (that would be me!) scoop Cool Whip onto hundreds of small paper plates while the rest of the crew dress themselves in large trash bags and shower caps and wait patiently for the whistle that signals the start of the “games.”

Chaos waiting to happen.
Here’s a photo of the aftermath of a fun-filled afternoon. Yes, my family is crazy. What can I say?

During our short stay, we always make time to visit the capital city of Lincoln. While my husband spends time at the Natural History Museum, I head straight for the International Quilt Study Center and Museum.

The International Quilt Study Center and Museum was founded in 1997 when native Nebraskans Ardis and Robert James donated their collection of nearly 1000 quilts to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Their contribution became the centerpiece of what is now the largest publicly held quilt collection in the world. 
Through private funds from the University of Nebraska Foundation and a lead gift from the James family, the center opened in its new location in 2008. The glass and brick, environmentally sustainable building was awarded silver level LEED (Leadership in Energy and environmental Design) certification.

The 3500+ items currently in the IQSC&M collection date from the early 1700s to the present, and 25 nations are represented. This is an area of special focus as the center works toward its goal of collecting, preserving and sharing quilts from all cultures, locations, and eras.

While checking the website to see what special exhibits would be available during my visit, I was delighted to see that I will have the privilege of seeing a a variety of pieces from the Jean Ray Laury collection. I will share photos and details of the show when I return.

Thank you to the museum for allowing us to include the above information and photos. Be sure to visit their website for more information.

Until next time, I wish you lots of fun with your families and friends.


Prepare to Be Dazzled: Here’s the Spring Quilt Market Scoop from the “Gal on the Town” Cyndy Rymer

Hello SHWS readers, this week I’m delighted to introduce a guest blogger (and a dear friend)—the one-and-only Cyndy Rymer, an extraordinary quilter, designer, editor/author, and teacher. She cruised Quilt Market Kansas City this past weekend as part of a Wooden Gate Quilts scouting party with shop owner Marby Bennett. Our guest blogger is eager to tell you all about the latest industry trends and stars . . . prepare to be dazzled! (Jennifer)

Silk–yum! Strong graphic designs in saturated colors.

First Impressions

Jeff Pellissier of Metropolitan Quilt with just one of his fabulous patterns–click the photo to visit his website.

Ah, Spring Quilt Market . . . so hip and flashy . . . a fabulous three-ring circus. Color, lights, and glitz—oh my! There’s eye candy coming from every direction and then there’s the gathering of famous quilters. It’s a dangerous place for someone like me who suffers (happily) with quilter’s ADD and SOD (shiny object disorder).

Sample Spree Insanity

Tasty treats at Sample Spree

One of our first stops was Sample Spree, where you can buy anything quilt related. Since none of us really need any more fabric, we opted to dine rather than wait on line for two+ hours. There were still plenty of jellyrolls, fat quarter packs, stylish totes, embellishments, and notions for us. Let’s just say I had no fiscal discipline.

Life Is a Circus

I loved, loved, loved Michael Miller’s booth which was done up as a circus tent to celebrate their new fabric line, Pierre’s Famous Traveling Circus. I enjoyed my bag of hand-delivered warm popcorn while Charlene of M.M. showed Marby and me the latest offerings.

Michael Miller’s well-dressed pachyderms–are they the “it” critters stampeding their way into the hearts of quilters? Do the owls know?

Amy Butler’s gorgeous booth showcasing her new Cameo line was the epitome of elegance and grace.

Sublime and elegant Amy Butler–she makes me want to be a better woman!

Life was a beach at booths like Pat Bravo’s Summerlove cottage and Sarah Jane’s adorable Out to Sea set in a ship’s bunk room. Yar, a pirate’s life for me; or, for those who know my passions, a mermaid’s.

Bring me one lobstah dinna, I’ll be at the blue table!

The Big Buzz is Modern

Angela Walters–a machine-quilting diva–struts her stiching talents on a Tula Pink quilt.

How cool is it to see how quilting has slipped into hip. Gen Xer’s and Boomers are surfing the crest of the modern quilting wave. It’s all about boldly graphic fabric design, improvisational piecing, and free-motion quilting. New titles, a debut magazine Generation Q, patterns, fabric lines—the energy being generated will keep the quilt world well lit for years.

Take a look at this gorgeous example of modern quilting. Angela Walters, who quilts for authors/designers Tula Pink and Jacquie Gering (see Jennifer’s recent book review), is just one of the bright new stars in the industry.

Solids in all sorts of juicy, yummy colors are the new superstars (check out Kaufman’s 243 colors). I heard someone say, “I just want to lick ‘em!” Well, maybe not the Shannon cuddle solids—they’re for snuggling.

New Releases From Northern California Designers

Talk about stars, how about updates from my local favorite designers? Verna Mosquera, an appliqué angel, highlighted her new fabric line Veranda along with her newest pattern Secret Garden at a Schoolhouse session. Denise Sheehan’s new quilt and pattern, Graceful Winter, was beautifully displayed at United Notions. Pam Kitty Morning was there, with daughter Frankie McMinnis, to showcase her latest prints. Sandy Klop has an adorable new French collection, A Breath of Avignon, that will be available shortly. Huge kudos to Bari J. for winning the Best Single Booth award.

Back Home

I’m completely re-energized and grateful for the time spent in the presence of such incredible creativity. And lesson learned: All those quilting superstars are very nice people who still have to make dinner, get the kids to school, and make sure there’s milk in the fridge (just like me!).

So what did I do the minute I walked in the door? I started a new quilt, of course, using a jellyroll of solids even though I don’t do solids–can’t wait to get it on my long arm and do some modern quilting.

A May Garden of Fun Little Fabric Flowers and a Giveaway

Check out these charming yo-yo flowers – aren’t they cute?

This is my idea of a Spring garden!

They’re surprisingly fast and easy to make using the Clover “Quick” Yo-Yo Maker (the tool size is flower shaped-large). To make a yo-yo, all you need is the tool, a 5½” square of fabric, needle and thread. The directions are complete, easy to follow, and have excellent illustrations. The diameter of each finished yo-yo flower measures about 1¾”.  I used quilting cottons from my stash and found that the softer fabrics worked best. Use a strong, heavier weight thread; this will reduce the chances of the thread breaking when you gather up the stitches to form the flower. I used YLI Machine Quilting cotton thread and it worked very well.

Clover package front.
Covered buttons in the centers adds an extra pop of color.

For an extra pop of color in the flower centers, I used coordinating fabrics to cover buttons using the Dritz Cover Button Kit Size 24. The button size is 5/8″, and they’re also quick and easy to make. I chose to glue my buttons to the centers of the yo-yo flowers rather than to sew them. Just bend down the metal loop on the back of the button so it lies flat, and apply a small amount of glue around the back edge of the button. Press it into the center of the flower and let it dry.  I used a permanent adhesive by Beacon called GEM-TAC, which is perfect for bonding porous materials – fabric, wood, suede – to smooth surfaces such as glass, vinyl, and metal. It holds beautifully, dries clear, and is washable. It’s a wonderful product and I always use it when there’s a need to adhere fabric to anything.

I think these little yo-yo flowers are really adorable and have great embellishment potential. How fun would it be to make a “baby headband” using matching fabric with a flower attached? They could also be used in a grouping to make a corsage, or to decorate packages. There’s got to be hundreds of different uses.

If you’ve got a good one, send it in a comment by Friday, June 1. If we pick yours, we’ll send you a Clover YO-YO Maker. The winner will be announced in my June 5 post.

Take care and let me know if you “plant” a garden of yo-yos. It’s my kind of garden – no bugs, no watering, no weeds!

Tiny Flower-Inspired Quilts: Design, Embellish, Display!

The rainy season has ended here in Northern California…

Stormy Weather, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

…and those April showers–as always–have delivered a bounty of beautiful blossoms.

The wild iris are abundant in late spring at Pt. Reyes National Seashore.
It’s not too early for roses in our part of the world. If we’re lucky, they bloom through Thanksgiving!
Love those colorful coreopsis!

How can I not be inspired?

Rememberance: Pink Blossoms, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

If flowers in the wild and in the garden aren’t inspirational enough, a visit to a local nursery is a surefire way to get those creative juices flowing. Alden Lane Nursery, in Livermore (CA) is a favorite. My husband loves their vegetable starts and fruit trees; I love the incredible variety of flowers and fanciful floral vignettes.

A wheelbarrow of blooms at Alden Lane Nursery

A Saturday morning visit always provides a burst of creative energy!

Alden Lane, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

As my “year of creativity” moves forward, I continue to experiment with new compositions, techniques, and materials in my “non-threatening” 3″ x 5″ format. (My husband calls it “Mouse House Art.”) I guess it’s natural that I’d be affected by what I see as the seasons unfold and Mother Nature reveals fresh palettes and textures. My current collages are heavily inspired by what’s blooming outside my window.

I’m Looking Through You, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

Embellishment plays a big role in creating many of these little pieces. I use lots of beads, especially seed and bugle beads. Silver bugle beads make perfect raindrops in Stormy Weather, which leads off this post. I love the way they catch the light! I used bugle beads for the greenery in Remembrance: Pink Blossoms, and to embellish the leaves in Alden Lane, both also shown above. In I’m Looking Through You, I used bugles to “soften” the line between garden and sky. I sew the beads on with silk thread and a size 12 quilting between or applique needle.

In Up Close and Personal (below), golden seed beads create the center (and focal point) of my close-up bloom. I love images that zoom in close or show only part of the whole. Sometimes it takes a moment to figure out what you’re seeing, but that’s part of the appeal. It’s a design idea you might like to try.

Up Close and Personal, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

Buttons make lovely flowers. I used them for the blossoms in Alden Lane and the whimsical flowers in Button Vine (below). I usually attach buttons with matching cotton thread–which I also used in Button Vine to attach the leafy charms–although I have been known to use a glue gun on occasion!

Button Vine, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamso

Truth is, I never know what will turn up in one of my collages. Tranquility (below) probably represents one of my more “inventive” recycling efforts.

Tranquility, 3″ x 5″, made by Darra Williamson

Those white flowers started life as holders for incense, which I enjoy each evening as part of my bedtime routine. (Very relaxing!) A favorite variety includes a holder in every box, so I’ve amassed quite a collection. I was about to toss them recently when…bingo! I stitched down a scrap of ribbon, secured the “flowers” with French knots, and glue-gunned a few glass-bead leaves for good measure.

I guess you know by now that I love making these little quilted collages and I hope you’ll be inspired to give them–and some of my embellishing tips–a try. I’ve already harvested a bumper crop of ideas for larger quilts, and–in the meantime–I’ve found lots of ways to display and enjoy my tiny treasures. (They make nice little birthday, thank you, anniversary, get well, and hostess gifts too.)

From the left: acrylic frame stand-up frame, plain glass clip-on frame, miniature easel (great for bulky embellishments), standard frame with mat

Instructions for constructing the basic 3″ x 5″ background “sandwich” appear in an earlier post. You’ll find more of my little collages there as well.

Before I sign off, I want to say “congratulations!” to Barbara (lily of the valley), winner of Nancy Mahoney’s  book, Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts from my May 4 post. Barbara, please email us your snail mail address at, and we’ll get that book out to you right away.

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Comfort Your Loved Ones with Quilts . . . It’s What We Do

Quilts have always meant so much more to me than simply fabric and batting. There is often an abundance of heartfelt emotions that go into the making of these beautiful pieces of art. I have made many healing quilts over the years and have always believed that the quilt becomes a messenger silently comforting the recipient while delivering the feelings we hold in our hearts.

Mother’s Day was perfect for presenting my niece, a first time mommy-to-be who recently lost her own mom, my sister-in-law Lari, with a big “quilty” hug.

Jennifer, Christie, Darra, and I each made a band of color, carefully selecting fabrics and designs with my niece in mind. Jennifer originally designed this pattern and, along with other quilting friends, presented it to another member of their quilting circle. The pattern was featured in the February 2012 issue of The Quilt Life 

Together we give our support.

With my input, my talented quilter, Marla Monson, added her magic touch. Beautiful and intricate lines capture a special moment in time . . . a hummingbird quietly perched atop a barren tree as we laid my sister-in-law to rest.

My niece said the quilt made her so happy she just wanted to surround herself in its beauty . . . and so she did.

Happy Birthday, Lari. I love you and miss you.

Surprise Package: Look What Quilting Inspiration is Blooming in My Garden

My family tells me I’ve never met a cliche I didn’t like, so in keeping with my attachment to hackneyed phrases I offer this:  check out the great things that are blooming in my garden from a small package. This past Christmas, my dear Mr. Snarky (eldest child) gave me a California wildflower seed collection that we planted according to the directions.  We’ve documented the surprisingly wonderful blooms with photos; I’d say there’s quilting inspiration in the collection.  (Oh yeah, this is my flower-themed post … like you didn’t realize that!)

Now here’s an incredible scarlet flower.  Don’t have a clue what its name is, but the color is delicious. Tilt your screen to get the full effect of the intense saturated color.

How about cobalt blue juxtaposed with white? Sounds like a classic pairing for a quilt to me.

Here’s a pair of rich saffron yellows, starting with the renowned California Golden Poppy…

…transitioning to a multi-petaled number in an equally bright saffron yellow.  Lame gardener that I am, I don’t know what it is, but I like it!

There’s always a surprise popping up in the springtime. This showed up in the front yard one day. It was incredibly tall, dramatic, and nothing like any weed I’ve ever seen. Anyone know what this is? My guess is it’s a gift from the covey of quails that hide out in the adjacent flower bed.

We don’t have green hills for very long here in Northern California, but we love our verdant landscape for as long as it lasts. I know, those of you with abundant rain might scoff, but we appreciate each water droplet because it yields such pretty Springtime abundance.

Facing southeast from Mt. Diablo, Contra Costa County, California.

Happy Mother’s Day to all past, present, and future mothers.  I shall celebrate with my guys and I hope you too will have the chance to spend time with family.

May Block of the Month: Half Way to the Finish Line!

It’s hard to believe, but once we complete the three blocks for May, we’re more than half way finished! I hope you’re enjoying the journey. Here’s the first sample of my May block, using Kathy Davis’ Happiness line and a great Kaffe Fassett dot:

I’ve tried to add a little “joy” to each block.

And here’s the May block using the citron/gray fabrics. Click here to download the instruction sheet for the May block (instruction sheets for the four earlier blocks can be found in our Pattern Library).

The May block using the citron/gray fabrics.

My friend Allison has been working on her blocks too. She’s using a Jelly Roll in Sweetwater’s Hometown line from Moda. It’s an interesting combination of a very subtle and sophisticated color palette paired with both tailored and whimsical patterns.

Allison’s May block using “Hometown” fabrics.

And last, but certainly not least, Jennifer has shared two of her May blocks with us. Aren’t they wonderful – the colors so vibrant!

Here’s an exciting update to Jennifer’s April 13th post regarding Sandra Bruce and the Spoonflower contest:

Keep sewing those blocks and the best of luck to Sandra!

A Shower of Flowers: Nancy Mahoney and Her Fabulous (Vintage and New) Floral-Themed Quilts

As soon as we decided on May Flowers as our theme for this month, I knew immediately what (and whom!) I would write about in today’s post.

The multi-talented Nancy Mahoney

Over the years, Nancy Mahoney and I have crossed “professional paths” many times. I’ve edited a number of her books for Martingale & Company; more than once, she has generously lent me vintage quilts from her extensive collection, including five beauties for my appearance on The Quilt Show (Episode 805).

Nancy, who lives in Palm Coast, FL, is a prolific quiltmaker, author (12 books and counting!), teacher, editor, and pattern designer. She also designs fabric and creates quilts for P&B Textiles, and has been collecting quilts for many years, with a particular interest in those from the 1930s, which she began acquiring well before they had achieved their current, highly collectible status.

As is typical of quilts from that period, many of Nancy’s vintage quilts showcase wonderful floral designs.

This floral-themed Dresden Daisy Chain dates from the 1930s. It’s from Nancy’s collection; she lent it to me for my appearance on The Quilt Show.

“Prior to the 1930s, floral designs were much more abstract,” Nancy explains, “but in the ’30s, these designs became more realistic; a rose looked like a rose. Favorite traditional patterns were rediscovered, while some patterns, such as Double Wedding Ring, appeared for the first time.” Syndicated patterns appeared in newspapers across the country, often attributed to fictitious designers with names like Laura Wheeler and Alice Brooks. Kits were popular as well.

This wonderful 1930s Pansy quilt–also from Nancy’s collection–was made from a kit. Similar kits were available from Needlecraft Magazine for $3.49 and included applique shapes stamped for cutting, and a top pre-marked for applique and quilting.
Detail of Nancy’s vintage Pansy quilt

I guess it’s not surprising that Nancy not only collects wonderful quilts with floral themes, but makes them, too! She draws her inspiration from a variety of sources. She loves to garden, and enjoys visiting gardens and nurseries, especially when she travels, to view the many varieties of flowers and to study their colors and textures. Of course, she is influenced by the floral quilts of the 1930s as well. The following four quilts are from her book, Applique Quilt Revival: Updated Patterns from the ’30s, which includes patterns and instructions for making them.

Tulip Patch, 78 3/4″ x 91 3/8″, designed by Nancy Mahoney, made by Loretta Sylvester, and machine quilted by Kelly Wise
Rose and Bow Wreath, 60 1/2″ x 60 1/2″, designed by Nancy Mahoney, made by Julie Sheckman, and machine quilted by Nan Moore
Peony Garden, 72 5/8″ x 84 5/8″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Dawn Kelly
Flower Garden, 46 1/2″ x 55 3/4″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Nan Moore

This next quilt is from Nancy’s classic book, Treasures from the ’30s. It’s one of eight wonderful designs–many of them flower themed–patterned in its pages.

Bell Flowers, 64″ x 64″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Nan Moore

Here’s the cover of Treasures, so you can look for it at your favorite quilt shop.

The final three quilts appear in one of Nancy’s most recent books, aptly titled Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts.

Precious Peonies, 68 1/2″ x 68 1/2″, designed, pieced, and appliqued by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Nan Moore
Daisy Vines, 43 1/2″ x 53 1/2″, designed and made by Nancy Mahoney
Orange Marmalade, 65 1/2″ x 82 1/2″, designed, pieced, and appliqued by Nancy Mahoney, machine quilted by Kelly Wise

Nancy’s longtime publisher, Martingale & Company, has generously provided a copy of Fast, Fusible Flower Quilts as a giveaway for one of our lucky readers. The book  includes patterns for “Precious Peonies,” “Daisy Vines,” “Orange Marmalade,” and eight more colorful, floral-themed pieced and appliqued quilts. Just leave us a comment telling us your favorite flower by midnight (PDT), Wednesday, May 16, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing for this book. I’ll announce the winner in my Friday, May 18 post.

Among her many quilt-related activities, Nancy enjoys traveling and teaching. Visit her website for details about her extensive listing of workshops and lectures, and for information on her current teaching schedule. If you plan to attend International Quilt Market in Kansas City, MO, later this month, look for Nancy at the Martingale booth on Friday, May 18, at 1:30 PM, where she’ll be signing copies of her brand-new book, Kaleidoscope Paper Piecing. (I told you she was prolific!)

Many thanks to Nancy for the photos of her vintage quilts, and to Martingale & Company for the use of the quilt images from Nancy’s books.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that the winner of the triple giveaway from my April 20 post is…Pip! Pip, please send me your snail-mail address via and I’ll get your package off to you with a Non-Stick Pressing Sheet from June Tailor, a package of five 9″ x 12″ sheets of Lite Steam-A-Seam 2 from The Warm Company, and a craft pack of Fast2Fuse from C&T Publishing.

That’s all for now. ‘Til next time, happy sewing!

April Showers Bring May Flowers…and a New See How We Sew Feature!

As we enter our second year of blogging (still can’t believe it!), we’ve decided to add a new twist to our format. Each month we’ll choose a theme, and each of us will do one theme-related post that month. The “theme” post may be an inspirational photo, news of a new fabric line, a book review, quilt collection, project, tutorial, or maybe even a recipe that relates to the monthly theme. I am excited to see how this idea evolves as we each bring something different to the table. Please enjoy this first post in our May “flower” theme.

I decided to take a slightly different look at flowers, and captured the following photos while on my morning walk today through the local Ruth Bancroft Gardens. These gardens do not have the usual “sweet and charming” look of many popular gardens, but instead are rich with a wide variety of succulents and cacti. I always enjoy seeing how the plant world puts on a colorful display for us during the spring months.  I often find inspiration for a new project from their colors, lines, and textures.

Even spiny, prickly cacti have colorful flowers.
Love this fuchsia and green color combination.
This was one of my favorite photos - one flowering plant overlapping another. Guess I like bright and showy.

What an interesting coincidence! Look at these two Aboriginal prints by M&S Textiles Australia. I just purchased them yesterday at my local quilt shop, The Cotton Patch. I’m so happy that they are carrying these beautiful Australian fabrics . . . and yes, there are several other designs available. Notice any similarities between these prints and the previous photo? Am I just that predictable? What colors, patterns, or shapes show up regularly for you?

I can't wait to start a new project with these exciting Australian prints.

The winner of Christine Barnes’ book is Laurie Spear. Thanks to so many of you for participating in the drawing.

Wish I could hang a basket of freshly picked flowers on each of your doorknobs today as a way of letting you know just how special you are to us. Happy May everyone!