Parting Thoughts: Going Solo @ Chasing Bright Shiny Objects

After four years of blogging with a quartet of talented women at See How We Sew, I am going to take a leap into solo blogging. Starting this coming Friday you’ll find me at Chasing Bright Shiny Objects, a blog about whatever strikes my fancy. Sure, there’ll be quilts and sewn crafts in the mix, but with my own blogging venue, I’ll be exploring a broader world of creativity and random other things.

Before I head out, I’d like to take a look back at some of my favorite posts and shared moments with Christie, Darra, Laura, and Pati. Just to reassure you, dear readers, SHWS remains in the capable hands of Laura and Pati.

Do check back on Friday for a preview of Chasing Bright Shiny Objects. I’d like to invite you to join me on my new adventures—the road map is a work-in-progress!

Favorite Profile

No question—Candace Kling. Writing a blog is a great excuse to marshal courage and contact the more iconic figures in our creative realms for interviews. I’ve long admired Candace and it was a treat to meet her and visit her outrageously wonderful studio: rough around the edges in its warehouse setting, but a true Aladdin’s cave filled with glorious examples of her art and collected vintage wares.

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's Studio
Examples of Candace Kling’s outstanding floral ribbon work.

Favorite SHWS Project

Again, a clear favorite for me, Achoo!, a collaborative pattern we developed for the debut of Jennifer Sampou’s Shimmer line. It’s not easy to squeeze in shared sewing time when we have such crazy working and life schedules—remember Laura had her daughter’s wedding in that interval—but somehow we managed to design and sew the quilt, plus write the Achoo! pattern instructions. Yes, we were breathless by the end, mostly because we had to make an additional quilt for the Robert Kaufman Fabrics trunk show, but we very happy with the result. Truly, the team collaboration has been the most satisfying experience in this last year. (Laura is awe inspiring as she power sews!)

Handsome Freddy (last name Reddy, yes, Reddy!) guards our secret project.
Handsome Freddy (last name Reddy, yes, Reddy!) guards our Achoo! quilt.

Favorite Team Event

It too was madness, but so much fun: Quilting in the Garden 2012. That’s where our original quartet, Christie, Darra, Laura, and I, were featured artists for the outdoor quilt exhibition in Livermore, California. What a fun weekend we had visiting with fellow quilters and visitors to Alden Lane Nursery. Laura returned this year with her long-time collaborator, Diana McClun, for a retrospective exhibit of a quarter century of shared quilt making. They have an astonishing number of them in their archives–we’re talking hundreds of quilts!

From left:  Christie, Jennifer (Christie's BOM), Darra (Sunbonnet Sue & a baby quilt)
From left: Christie, Jennifer (Christie’s BOM), Darra (Sunbonnet Sue & a baby quilt) at Quilting in the Garden 2012, Livermore, California.

Favorite Personal Post(s)

Yikes, that’s a tough one because there are several that resonate with me still. As a writer who spends most of her professional time crafting sentences that have a neutral voice, taking those first steps to sharing my own voice has been both scary and thrilling. My first post, Designing Quilts One Grocery Bag at a Time, was a complete improvisation. I experienced something that tickled my fancy and I wrote about it. It was weird inspiration, but that spurred me to share the moment with photographs. My peanut gallery of males (i.e. my all-male household) thought I was demented as I tried to figure out how to photograph groceries on my kitchen table. Par for the course as it turns out with this blog–we have each grown our skills as we’ve navigated this endeavor. Next fave personal post: My Quilts Have Feet–it makes me teary eyed. I miss my little fellas, even as I adore the grown men they have become. I absolutely do miss them when I have large quilts to photograph though. They know the drill and, as I mentioned in this recent post, my new crew needs some pointers.

J-Inspiration: Groceries II Minus Chips and Ice Cream

Favorite Collaboration

Ah, this one was a true pleasure: the African textiles and quilts series that culminated in a virtual quilt show of African quilts (Part I, Part II). This mega international project would have be impossible without Paula Benjaminson, art quilter, ambassadorial wife, and former U.S. foreign service officer. We most definitely spanned the globe with this extravaganza: Paula and I were in touch via email as she traveled from Africa to Europe and the U.S. The images from the collection of posts are still favorites for Pinterest pinners and for those who love African textiles.

A wondrous array of colors and prints on display for sale in Libreville, Gabon.
A wondrous array of colors and prints on display for sale in Libreville, Gabon–photographed by Paula Benjaminson, SAQA member.

Wow, four years and somewhere around 50+ individual posts, it’s been a blast here at SHWS. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with me in the Comments section, it’s been a true pleasure getting to know such a talented and passionate array of crafting people. Keep the pedal to the medal with your sewing and do consider joining me on my new blogging journey.

Jennifer Signature


A See How We Sew Tradition: Our Top 10 Posts for 2014

Inspiration-J:  Xmas Tree

Hello dear readers! Hope the holiday season is  treating you well. We’re enjoying the closing days of 2014, and looking forward to all sorts of crafting and sewing adventures in 2015. You’ll remember that last year we shared our Top 10 Posts for 2013 and we’re establishing a New Year’s tradition by looking at our results for 2014 and sharing them with you.

Like last year, you favor learning about techniques, notable textile artists, and products:

  1. Patterns
  2. Walk Your Stitches Out of the Ditch
  3. 10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out with Candace Kling
  4. Drafting Part 2:  Making an 8-Pointed or Lemoyne Star
  5. Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon
  6. Prewash or Not? Quilting’s Perennial Question
  7. Feeling Frantic?  Check Out These Last-Minute Goodies
  8. Gallery
  9. Soft & Stable:  An Alternative to Batting
  10. Creating Curved Pieced Blocks and Landscapes with Sue Rasmussen

Enjoy the waning days of our Winter holidays and do check back to see what we have in store for 2015!

Signature 1 line



Quilt Market – All Our Favorites!

As I mentioned in my post last Tuesday, I just returned from International Quilt Market in Houston. I am not always the most dependable person to be in charge of photos, but I did actually pull out my lil’ red camera to snap a few shots of our favorite friends and guests of See How We Sew.

I also wanted to share a slideshow of my personal favorites in the quilt exhibit. Click here: slideshow to get a peek. My apologies for the adds that are slipped in. You can thank Flickr for that. I also apologize for not keeping track of the artists and quilters responsible for these beauties. Remember, I am not the most responsible photographer. . . so if you recognize a quilt, be sure to let me know and I am happy to add the names to the photos.


I took quite a few photos of the Windham booth, since our quilt, A Day at the Shore (aka Making Waves), was hanging right at the front entrance. How fun is that?

Kim Andersson and A Day At the Shore Quilt for her Tidal Lace Collection     Tidal Lace Quilts

Fabric designer Kim Andersson was sporting an adorable frock made from her Tidal Lace Collection, along with other happy quilts created for her fabric line .


Iza Pearl Designs had an amazing display inside the Windham Booth.

Paint     Succulents or Cascade

Unbelievable detail on her Paint quilt. And yes – the cactus is made of fabric!

cascade  Cascade 2

Jessica Levitt had a serene and oh-so-beautiful display for her new line, Cascade, complete with a trickling, water fountain in the background.

Succulents     Succulents 2 

And Succulents by Heather Givens – definitely a fabric line that I will be buying.

cascade 3

I kept finding myself just hanging out near this beauty.

Okay, moving on from the Windham Booth, I got to visit with a few friends on the floor. I feel so lucky to know these uber-talented people.

Jennifer Sampou

Jennifer Sampou looked amazing as ever with her totally fun black and white booth.

Sampou quilt    Sampou

Seriously, how fun are these?

Valorie Wells

Valori Wells did it again with her wonderful eye for color and playfulness – and scored a blue ribbon for her booth design.

Valerie Wells booth

Again, seriously? How cute is that?

Monaluna     DSC00986

Jennifer Moore and her husband David Miguelucci own Mona Luna, a small, independent organic fabric company. Keep your eyes open for this one. Her fabric and patterns are beautiful. We talked about a future visit with See How We Sew in the next month or so.

Friedlander booth     Friedlander

Carolyn Friedlander – is there nothing this chick can’t do? That sofa was amazing.

Then it was time to take a break for fun with friends.

Madeline at Domestic Strata     Dinner with friends

I met Madeleine Roberg of Domestic Strata almost immediately as I hit the show floor on the first day. She is so much fun. I just wanted to hang out in her booth all day. Next, it was off for dinner with Kim, and two more new friends, Linda Warren (the talented designer and teacher of Linda Warren Designs) and Timna Tarr (you just have to go look at her site, Timna Tarr - I am in awe of her quilts.)

Back to those inspiring booth displays.

not sure     American Made Brand

   Cloud 9     Cloud 9 2 

So much creativity!

Contempo     DSC01022 Cotton and steel 2    Cotton and steel

Heather Bailey     Lakehouse

And then a shout-out to a few more Northern California peeps that we love.

Fig Tree Quilt2    Fig Tree Quilts

Fig Tree & Co.

Bird Brain Designs     Bunny Hill

Bird Brain Designs and Bunny Hill Designs.

In the awesome quilt category . . .

Farmers Star 2     Farmer's Star

The Reclaimed West Collection by Judy and Judel Neimeyer.

Paula Naedelstern     Whimsical

Paula Naedelstern and Whimsical Journey

2014-10-27 11.02    2014-10-27 11.03

This was a quilt I fell in love with in the Chenille-It booth. Check this out! It is done with raw edge “blooming bias” tape. Can’t wait to try this.

Soak 2     Soak

And I will end with  photos from the Soak booth. One, because I felt like I was in a cool cosmetic counter when I visited them and two, because they gave me samples. Thanks ladies! I am already using it.

Hope you enjoyed all my favorites.  Have a great weekend.

Pati Signature

International Quilt Market – What’s New in the Quilt Industry?

I just got back from International Quilt Market last week. What a great trip! So many new things to sew; so many new things to try! It was also a really great time to reconnect with friends in the industry, and as always, make new friends.

The big news, this year, was that International Quilt Market celebrated its 35th Anniversary. It’s amazing to think that this huge show to the trade all started with one doozie of a great idea! Congratulations Quilts Inc. for following your dream. So many talented people have kickstarted their quilt-related businesses through this wonderful forum. Quilters everywhere – thank you for this!

Also, International Quilt Festival celebrated it’s 40th anniversary this year. In this celebratory spirit, Ruby Red Jubilee was created, a breathtaking quilt exhibit filled with an amazing selection of red and white quilts. All I can say is –  it was spectacular! If you would like to watch a video of the show, I am including a link to a video that Pam Holland created.  Thank you Pam!

 Ruby Jubilee, International Quilt Market 2014

Ruby Jubilee, International Quilt Market 2014

There were many other incredible exhibits at the show. One in particular grabbed my attention. 500 Traditional Quilts, the new book by Karey Patterson Bresenhan,  was was on display with selected quilts from the book, including a quilt by our own, Laura Nownes, Harijuku Star. Congratulations Laura!

Harijuku Star by Laura Nownes

The Schoolhouse Series, always held the day before the show opens, was jammed packed with announcements of all the latest, hottest fabric lines, patterns, tools and ideas. My personal favorite of this year? Pepper Cory’s class on Big Stitch quilitng, and an introduction to the newest pallette of Peppered Cottons, including Peppered Plaids.

Peppered Cottons by Studio E and Pepper Cory     Peppered plaids by Studio E and Pepper Cory

It was also really cool to see how the quilt industry has embraced the clothing sewers. Schoolhouse was filled with lots of patterns and fabrics designed for more than just quilts. For the first time ever, I am inspired to actually make some clothing for myself! Don’t you just love these dress patterns?

Anna Maria Horner - Lemon Drop Dress     Birch Fabrics

Evenings were filled with a meet and greet, Fabric 2.0 and a festival meetup with Modern Quilt Guild members. Both were lots of fun and yet another chance to visit with friends and acquaintances. Oh, and let me tell you – swag bags galore! I could have used an extra suitcase to bring home all my goodies!

What is trending this year? Ok, keep in mind that you are getting this from the world of Pati Fried, but this is what I saw as new and popular on the show floor.

Sizzix – A die-cut and embossing tool for paper – and you guessed it – FABRIC! Everywhere I went, someone was talking about them. And yes, I now have one on order.

Sizzix Booth (2)

Fabric designed for more than just quilts. The seamstress has officially been embraced. Cotton and Steel announced a beautiful new double gauze cotton collection called Bespoke. Yummy!

Photo courtesy of

Anna Maria Horner and Amy Butler teamed up to create a fabulous line of cotton knits for Free Spirit.  Anna Maria Horner demonstrated how they could be used as a companion with quilting cotton. The tunic below is made of knit, and the applique is quilt cotton. They work so nicely together.
Photo courtesy of Sew

And to wrap up my take on what’s trending – self publishing is becoming more and more mainstream.  I attended an eye-opening lecture by Marguerita McManus of Fibers Media, on the subject of self publishing and e-books. These platforms are an easy fit for marketing yourself and ideas in the quilt world. Great information and very inspiring.

Ok, enough for now. On Friday, I will show booth photos from some of the SHWS favorite friends and guests that I

saw exhibiting at Quilt Market.



The winner of last week’s giveaway is Lola. Congratulations Lola! Laura will be contacting you with you gift.





Pati Signature

Top Ten Posts for 2013 at See How We Sew

A peek at a portion of Candace Kling's vast ribbon stash.
A peek at a portion of Candace Kling’s vast ribbon stash.
Candace’s posts were widely popular this year at See How We Sew.

As bloggers, my SHWS sisters and I review our readership numbers regularly to see what posts have been popular with viewers. That certainly helps us figure out if we’re writing about topics that are appealing, informational, and–we hope–fun.

Here’s the rundown for 2013. Clearly you like clever people, projects, products, and how-to guidance. Some pre-date 2013, which shows that we’ve truly hit on a topic of universal interest.

See How We Sew’s Top 10 Posts for 2013

  1. FREE Patterns
  2. He’s Here, He’s Here! The Santa Claus Block is Ready!
  3. 10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out With Candace Kling, Ribbon Worker Extraordinaire
  4. Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon–Giveaway Today!
  5. Gallery and How-To Videos
  6. Soft and Stable: An innovative alternative to batting. A perfect choice for Placemats & Totebags
  7. Neutral Palettes: Sophisticated and Sensational!
  8. Working in a Series: Gwen Marston and 37 Sketches
  9. Walk Your Stitches Right Out of the Ditch: Fresh Ideas for Quilting with a Walking Foot
  10. Housing Projects: Schoolhouse Quilts, Then and Now (Part 1)

    "Small Study 10" (2010) by Gwen Marston, from her book, 37 Sketches
    Another fan favorite this year: “Small Study 10″ (2010) by Gwen Marston, from her book, 37 Sketches.

Other Matters of Interest on the Eve of a New Year–Pati Fried Gives Herself an INSANE Challenge!

UFO Marathon

Giveaway Winner

The winner of my Santa Smiles Tree Skirt pattern giveaway is Jennifer Willard–congratulations!

On the eve of a new year, we wish you the very best and fun/safe frolics!


From the Three of Us: Running with Scissors (+ a Special Anniversary Giveaway)

Giveaway-GoldTechnology has changed our lives in many places,  the sewing room among them. We 21st-century stitchers are beneficiaries of so many advances: computerized sewing machines; accurate and sturdy rulers for every conceivable use;  instruction available 24/7 via the ‘net. In the cutting department, we have rotary cutters in all sizes, perfect for cleanly cutting straight or scalloped edges, and cutting systems such as AccuQuilt, capable of quickly cutting dozens of identical shapes. Yet, despite the options, sometimes nothing will do but a good, old-fashioned pair of scissors.

Darra's 3" x 5" collage, Snip-It!, with a pair of her (well-used) favorites, a gift from friend Chris Porter
Darra’s 3″ x 5″ collage, Snip-It!, with a pair of her (well-used) favorites, a gift from friend Chris Porter

No one knows for certain exactly when scissors made the scene, or even how they got their name, but there are some pretty well-acknowledged guesses. A single-bladed, scissor-like implement was evident in Egypt, circa 1500 B.C. The cross-bladed, pivoted configuration more familiar to us today likely dates to the early-2nd-century Romans. As for the name: according to Merriam-Webster, the Middle English word cisours (or sisoures) was in use by the mid-14th century, tracing its roots to the Latin caedare (“to cut”).

In honor of this venerable and versatile tool, we thought it would be fun to share a snippet or two of our own history with scissors: memories, favorites, even a tip–you’ll find it here!

Jennifer’s Ode to Her Scissors

Even as a child, when I was a novice sewer, I realized scissors were imbued with mythic power. Those shiny, big shears were strictly off limits except for cutting fabric. Honestly, I was a little afraid of them. Not so much now. What with rotary cutters and such, we’ve got scads of choices when it comes to our cutting ways. As for scissors, I favor a sporty model that Diana McClun gave me a few years ago—it was the designated giveaway for the Empty Spools sessions at Asilomar (CA) that year. I love them because they are the racy sports car version of scissors: they are sharp, corner well, snip cleanly right up to the tip of the blade, and they are also exotically international—they are Japanese by birth.

Jennifer's go tos, artfully displayed
Jennifer’s go tos, artfully displayed

Laura Checks In

I have always enjoyed having a pair of scissors in my hands. Sometimes the cuts did not produce the outcome I had hoped for; for example, at around age 4, I clearly recall cutting the beautiful, long curls from my best friend’s new bride doll . . . sorry Patty! (Perhaps this experience softened me when, at around the same age, my younger daughter gave her best friend a haircut.)

Betsy McCall first appeared in McCall's in 1951.
Betsy McCall first appeared in McCall’s in 1951.

Soon after, I was given my own pair of safety scissors. I remember patiently awaiting the arrival of the monthly McCalls Magazine  just to be able to flip to the last page and cut out the newest version of the Betsy McCall paper doll that appeared in each issue. For me, it was always about the cutting and much less about playing with the dolls.

When I started dressmaking, a pair of beautiful Gingher shears were my new treasured tool. When I want accurate cutting for large or multiple fabric shapes, these are my scissors of choice. I have a variety of small, embroidery-type scissors and use them for all my appliqué and embroidery projects. Like Jennifer, I also was gifted with a pair of Kai scissors. They have become my new favorite pair.

Some of Laura's favorites
Some of Laura’s favorites

A Tip From Darra

Funny how our memories overlap. I have similar recollections of the forbidden fabric scissors: I learned about the distinction when I was discovered trimming my bangs with Mom’s precious Wiss dressmaking shears. I also remember waiting impatiently for her to finish with McCall’s so I could get at those paper dolls. (Heavenly were the months when the reverse page contained no stories, just ads. Instant green light!)

Like Laura and Jennifer, I’ve accumulated quite a collection of sewing scissors over the years, and I have my favorites; however, I’ve got one special pair among my “essentials”
that you might find unusual: a pair of small, sharp, curved-bladed manicuring scissors. They are perfect for cutting out small (or otherwise) curvy shapes from template material. If they’re sharp enough, you can use them for cutting out curved applique shapes from fused fabric as well. I wouldn’t be without them!

Curved manicuring scissors--perfect for cutting small curved templates and pieces, like the pockets and such in April Showers for Sunbonnet Sue by Chris Porter
Curved manicuring scissors–perfect for cutting small curved templates and pieces, like the pockets and such in April Showers for Sunbonnet Sue by Chris Porter

Leave a comment telling us about your favorite scissors by noon Thursday, April 4, and you’ll be eligible to win a pair of shiny new 8″ Gingher knife-edge dressmaking shears . . . and a secret bonus that we’ll reveal when we announce the winner in our Friday, April 5 post. It’s a special, double giveaway to mark a very special milestone: the 2nd anniversary of See How We Sew!


We hope your week includes some time for stitching.


Anatomy of a Wedding Quilt Part I

Ahh, the chateaux of France. . . here's a pretty one photographed by my brother-in-law William.
Ahh, the chateaux of France. . . here’s a pretty one photographed by my brother-in-law William.

Another year, another family wedding! My niece/goddaughter will be marrying in the French village where she grew up and we’re so excited to visit that side of the family for such a joyous event. Of course, such a milestone requires the bestowal of a wedding quilt so I’ve been working away at my latest nuptial project.

Street life--strolling through a small town in France, again by William Rounds.
Street life–strolling through a small town in France, again by William Rounds.

Quilt Inspiration, a blog co-authored by sisters Marina and Daryl Lynn is one of my favorite sources for quilting ideas. They’ve got the best selection of free quilt patterns stacked in the blog’s rightmost column. I took a gander last fall and downloaded a few to share with the bride’s sisters.  Jelly Roll Strip Starburst by Kimberly Einmo and Brigit Schuller, published by the quilt batting manufacturer, Fairfield, made the cut.

Quilt-J:  Jelly Roll Stars
Jelly Roll Strip Starburst by Kimberly Einmo and Brigit Schuller.

True confessions:  I had to choose a quilt pattern that worked with my preselected quilt backing. I don’t usually work backwards like that, but I own serious yardage of Alexander Henry Harajuku Ladies and it’s pretty darn fabulous. Laura’s the one who revealed the print’s charms to me in a past post.

Turns out that my backing choice is serendipitous—the bridegroom is of Japanese descent and the design is both modern and retro, which is perfect for a young, happening couple.

Quilting kismet! I knew there was a reason why I broke the bank on that yardage.

Fabric-J:  Harajuku Ladies by Robert Kaufman
Harajuku Ladies from Robert Kaufman fabric.

FYI:  I’m a bit of a contrarian when it comes to following quilt patterns. I’ve just got to put my own spin on whatever one I select, and so my niece’s wedding quilt is a riff on Kimberly’s original. My preference was to set the stars on a white field so there’d be plenty of space for quilting. I wanted something clean-lined that could age reasonably well:  scrappy, bright, and light-filled. I’m no seer, but I suspect (and hope) simplicity trumps all when it comes to enduring appeal.

First draft of layout--not there yet but getting there.
First draft of layout–not there yet, but almost.

I’ve found myself thinking a lot about the quilting with this project and considered many options. That’s the detail, I think, that will really make the quilt shine and so I’ve commissioned a truly spectacular long-arm quilter to add an heirloom touch to the wedding quilt.

Even though delivering the quilt and backing should be a no-stress step in the quilt-building process, I actually find it nerve-racking, even though it’s about delegating the workload and unloading anxiety. Is my quilt top well sewn? Are my borders wavy? Do I have enough backing? Are my requirements insane? Am I a high-maintenance client? Will the quilter, to my shame, send back my quilt for fixing before quilting?

Rather than freak myself out with worries, I decided that I’d tackle these questions in my Friday post where I will share insights from an interview of Marla Monson, long-arm quilter extraordinaire. She’s helping me channel my angst and quilting the wedding quilt.

Till Friday . . .  J-Signature

French cows in a mist photographed by the bride's sister (and daughter of William).
French cows in a mist photographed by the bride’s sister (and daughter of William).


Housing Projects: Schoolhouse Quilts, Then and Now (Part 1)

While visiting my mother-in-law in Florida last week, I took advantage of the beautiful weather to enjoy a seaside stroll, and happened upon an adorable 8-year-old girl drawing in the sand. I was quite taken with her, and asked if she would allow me to photograph her artwork. She graciously assented.

Artwork in the Sand

Her inspiration?

Beach hut

Later on, when I viewed the photos I had taken that afternoon, something struck me as oddly familiar. Then it hit me: the simple lines of that drawing in the sand (and the inspiration for it) reminded me of the super-easy House block I had used in “It Takes a Village,” one of the quilts from my latest book, Cuddle Me Quick, co-authored with Chris Porter.

It Takes a Village; 32 1/2" x 38 1/2", designed and pieced by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Christine Porter, from our book, "Cuddle Me Quick"
It Takes a Village; 32 1/2″ x 38 1/2″, designed and pieced by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Christine Porter, from our book, “Cuddle Me Quick”

Cuddle Me Quick cover

I’ve always loved the Schoolhouse block (and its many variations). Back in the day, I even collaborated with editor Karen Soltys to produce the Schoolhouse volume of The Classic American Quilt Collection series produced by Rodale Press. This 122-page, hardcover book included photos and instructions for 11 wonderful quilts made by quilters from around the country, including well-known teachers and authors Sharyn Craig and Mary Stori.

The Classic American Quilt Collection_Schoolhouse_cover_2

Mary Stori's Little Red Schoolhouses, as it appeared in Rodale's Classic American Quilt Collection: Schoolhouses
Mary Stori’s Little Red Schoolhouses, as it appeared in Rodale’s Classic American Quilt Collection: Schoolhouses

All this got me thinking about the many wonderful Schoolhouse and other house-themed quilts I’ve seen over the years, both vintage and newly made. For example, I’ve always loved the colorful and quirky House quilt detailed on the cover of Laura’s (and Diana McClun’s) book, Quilts, Quilts, and More Quilts!

Quilts Quilts and more Quilts cover

Here’s a view of the entire quilt. Can’t you just picture it over a sofa or buffet?

Rowhouse, 75" x 38", designed and pieced by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, hand quilted by Anna Venti
Rowhouse, 75″ x 38″, designed and pieced by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, hand quilted by Anna Venti

In the traditional vein, it’s hard to top this lovely blue-and-white beauty that appears in Episode 2: Quilts Bring History Alive of the landmark documentary series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics.

Schoolhouse or House in a Garden Maze, 1890 - 1892, maker unknown, photo by Sharon Risedorph, photo courtesy Rod Kiracofe, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter
Schoolhouse or House in a Garden Maze, 1890 – 1892, maker unknown, photo by Sharon Risedorph, photo courtesy Rod Kiracofe, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter

Quilt history has always fascinated me, and I typically begin my search for good, solid info with quilt historian, Barbara Brackman. Her classic book, Clues in the Calico, has been my Number 1 “go-to” resource since it landed on my shelf in the late 1980s, and once again it proved to be just the ticket. (NOTE: Although the hardcopy version of Clues in the Calico has been out of print for some time, you can find it via Barbara’s wonderful blog, Material Culture. Click on the link and scroll down the page until the book appears in the left-hand column. You’ll find a link there for the eBook version as well.)

clues in the calico_2

From Barbara’s book, I learned that the pieced block we call Schoolhouse appeared rather late in the nineteenth century (c. 1880 – 1890), and was known by a variety of names (including Old Kentucky Home, Old Folks at Home, and Lincoln’s Log Cabin) until Ruth Finley gave it the familiar moniker, Little Red Schoolhouse, in 1929. Barbara featured the block in her “Quilt Block of the Week” series last November. Click here to view her post, which includes directions for making this 8″ finished block.

Little Red Schoolhouse block, made by Becky Brown, appears in Barbara Brackman's Quilt Block of the Week series, 11/20/12
Little Red Schoolhouse block, made by Becky Brown, appears in Barbara Brackman’s Quilt Block of the Week series, 11/20/12

I asked Barbara if she had photos of any special Schoolhouse quilts that she might share. She came up with this great interpretation, made in 1987 by her sewing group, Seamsters’ Union Local #500. Read more about it on her blog by clicking  here.

The Douglas County Bank Quilt, made by The Seamsters' Union Local #500, Lawrence, KS, 1987, collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
The Douglas County Bank Quilt, made by The Seamsters’ Union Local #500, Lawrence, KS, 1987, collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum

Don’t forget to check back for Part 2 of this post on Friday, January 18. It will include instructions for making the 4″ x 6″ finished House block that appears in my quilt “It Takes a Village” (shown above), along with photos of some other wonderful house-themed quilts, old and new.

‘Til then, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Chairs, Prayers, and Blossoming Creativity: Our Favorite Completed Projects of 2012

Nelly Schrager captures a "busy" bee at work--here's to many bee-you-ti-ful projects accomplished in 2013!
Nelly Schrager captures a “busy” bee at work–here’s to many bee-you-ti-ful projects accomplished in 2013!

As we transition from one year of projects to another, we’re taking this opportunity to look back at some of those we finished in 2012. Perhaps there are quilts in the mix that please us or maybe even something stitch-less that brought us extra pleasure. Here’s a look at what tickled our fancy:

Darra Blooms With Creativity

From the standpoint of creativity (and productivity), 2012 was a unique year for me. Rather than keeping my primary New Year’s resolution private, I announced it right here in a December 2011 group post: the commitment to spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day, every day, doing something creative. For the most part, I was pretty faithful to my resolution. Yes, I hit a few bumps along the road–more about the challenges (and how I overcame them) in an upcoming post–but by and large, 2012 was perhaps my most creatively adventurous and fruitful year ever.

Bloom_detail 2

“…and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I’ve always loved this quote from French author/diarist Anais Nin. Never, however, have I felt the connection more strongly than I have this past year. And so I took that joy of self-discovery and expressed it in fabric.

Bloom, 13 1/2" x 9", made by Darra Williamson, 2012.
Bloom, 13 1/2″ x 9″, made by Darra Williamson, 2012.

It may not be the best piece I created all year, but it is–without doubt–the most meaningful to me.

Laura is Hopelessly Devoted to Chairs

I’m a sucker for old chairs, and over the years, I’ve learned to both re-upholster and add new caning to furniture that probably would have been tossed had I not wanted to breathe new life into them. Keeping my hands busy and learning new skills is at the top of my list when choosing how to spend my free time.

Here’s one of two matching wing back chairs I recently finished. Believe me, deconstruction was far worse than re-construction. I’m practicing and gaining confidence to tackle a patchwork chair. Just think how much fun that would be.

L: chair1

Here’s one of a pair of old chairs I’ve had in my garage for over 20 years. I just couldn’t bear to part with them so I decided to tackle the repair myself. Caning is a tedious job, but oh so rewarding. I love how they turned out.

L: chair2

Friends who are aware of my interest often “gift” me with old treasures. Here’s one I recently acquired. It’s a perfect candidate for a new needlepoint cover. I’ve always wanted to learn this art form and Kaffe Fassett’s stunning needlepoint designs have been speaking to me. I hope I can share the new look in a 2014 post.

L: chair3

Soon I’ll be known as Laura Nownes, quilt and chair maker.

Jennifer Sends Out a Quilt and a Prayer

Quilt-J:  Close-up of Jennifer's version of Christie's BOM

I don’t often have a surplus of quilts to give away as gifts, but after I made two of Christie’s block of the month projects in 2012, I ended up with a couple of finished quilts with no particular destinations. Well, that’s until I bestowed one as a wedding gift for the daughter of very dear family friends, leaving me with the other one which, I admit, I was eyeing possessively. You’ve got a detailed view above–Elaine Beattie quilted it for me with lovely feathery details.

It’s probably one of my favorite completed projects for the year. The white background fabric delivers a crisp and clean feeling, while the citrusy and jungle/sea colors call to my tropical alter ego. I actually gave you a sneak peak earlier last year after a trip to my Florida home town. Clearly, I didn’t follow Christie’s layout–well hey, I’ve gotta do my own thing.

What I didn’t mention then was that I visited with a high school friend in Florida and had a chance to catch up on our lives, children, and aging parents. Turns out her eldest child was amidst a freakishly awful year that was culminating in major surgery at year’s end. If ever a person deserved and needed the healing touch of a quilt, it was she. So much for coveting my own handiwork; that quilt had a job to do. I attached a special heart label, sealed the shipping box with a prayer, and sent the quilt on its way. It arrived just in time for surgery. She’s mending now and rebuilding her life. I’ve got the iPhone photo her mother sent from the hospital where she’s wrapped in the quilt. Of course I got misty eyed, but I also smiled because I know handmade quilts are healers. (Although I do think her mother is due for a quilted embrace too.)

Quilt-J:  Jennifer's version of Christie's BOM

Here’s to a new year with exciting creative opportunities! While Darra quotes Anais Nin, I turn to the immortal words of Anne Shirley, the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s  Anne of Green Gables books:  “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 

p.s  Thanks to Nelly for her stunning bee photograph!

p.p.s.  I just spoke to my Florida friend for an update on her daughter. She’ll be recovering for a long time, but it turns out the quilt is evolving into a communal hug. Her mom (my friend) collected 80 fabric hearts with personalized messages from her daughter’s kindergarten students and family/friends to add to my heart label and her (my friend’s) 90-year-old mother is going to sew them all onto the quilt back. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? Makes me weepy in the best-possible way!