My Nepenthe, a Story, a Riddle and a Giveaway

I want to start with a riddle. Think of this as you read on, and at the end, I will give you an opportunity to answer the riddle for a giveaway!

What do a cook, a quilter and an ocean view have in common?

I feel like I have opened the door to a whole new world this past few weeks.
My husband gave me a beautiful book for Christmas, My Nepenthe, by Romney Steele.

My Nepenthe by Romney Steele

If you live on the West Coast, you may know of the restaurant, Nepenthe. I think of Nepenthe as more of a destination than just a restaurant. For years, my family has been making the drive down the coast to spend a magical day in Big Sur, California. We visit some of the most beautiful coastline available, stroll through majestic redwoods and explore the bohemic lifestyle in this mystical place that inspired artists, writers and creative souls over the years.NepentheView

But at the end of the day, we always, and I do mean always, stop to visit Nepenthe.


It is the perfect way to end a day in Big Sur.We relax and enjoy the spectacular views, have something to eat, and then search for a special treasure  in the gift shop, The Phoenix.The Phoenix

It was on one of my first visits, I looked up at the vaulted ceilings in The Phoenix and noticed quilts hanging from the rafters in all their glorious colors. That is the day I found out Kaffe Fasset‘s family owned Nepenthe.

You would think that being given a beautiful book called My Nepenthe would be a very meaningful gift for me. But it even gets better.


Author Romney Steele is also co-owner of a very special cafe, oyster and wine bar in historic Old Oakland appropriately named The Cook and Her Farmer2015-01-30 14.18.37My husband eats many of his lunches there, noshing on an extraordinary grilled cheese sandwich or a bowl of savory mussels.

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As much as I love the food, I also love simply taking in the atmosphere. Colorful jars of canned goods and bowls of fresh produce line the counters.They convey the spirit of her farm to table principles.

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You can pull up a cheery, red stool to the warm, wooden tables for a casual and communal meal.
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I am in awe of those able to convey their vision so clearly for others to enjoy. Romney’s bio describes herself as a writer, cook and visual artist. I would agree. Whether I am reading her book, sitting in her establishment or peeking at her blog, there is a vision that she is sharing. It is warm, and colorful, and I enjoy being a part of it.

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So all of this leads up to my gift, the book My Nepenthe. A book of stories and tales of Big Sur.  It is a story about food, family, how it all unfolds around the table and why that matters. It celebrates the magic and history of the family who started Nepenthe, Romney Steele’s family and yes, the Fassett family.

Ahhh, it’s all coming together, now isn’t it??? Kaffe Fassett is Romney Steele’s uncle!


I am sure many of you have read and loved the autobiography by Kaffe Fassett’s, Dreaming in Colour, which shares his stories of life in Big Sur.

KaffeConsider My Nepenthe as part of a series of books. The book is lovely. The stories are wonderful, the visuals are inspiring and the recipes are fresh and unique.


Even the design elements are delightful. Romney used Kaffe Fassett’s ever popular Millefiore design for the spine of the book, along with remnants of her grandmother’s smocks which were scanned and shared throughout the pages. It is so amazing to know a family such as the Fassett family could completely embrace the spirit of creativity.

Aren’t we fortunate that they did?2015-02-02 09.43.53

Romney Steele.
Romney Steele




To end my story, I want to share a excerpt from Romney Steele’s blog,

Romney Steele (words + food + visual).

She writes about her love of cooking in words that resonate with the way I feel about quilting:


Plum Gorgeous: Recipes and Memories from the Orchard – Romney Steele’s latest book

“I often turn to cooking when I feel out of sorts, when I feel less than grounded, less than knowing my way. Cooking, like gardening, feels tangible. Whether slicing lemons for a bright marmalade, or turning over the soil to plant spring greens, both feel grounded in my history and in my present–in so much that is healing and gives me joy. Preparing and sharing food creates a feeling of well being, of time well spent and good work done. It’s also deeply meditative, restorative by way of making.” Romney Steele


Thank you Romney. Your words inspire me to be true to myself. To do what I do because it is who I am. But for now, I am yearning for the Big Sur Life and I just want to curl up in some quilts and read all about it!

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So, dear readers,

What do a a cook, a quilter and an ocean view have in common?

MakingWavesPatterns-Cover1What do you think they have in common?  Leave your answer and share what inspires you as a comment. One of you will win a copy of our newest pattern, Making Waves.

I hope you enjoyed my story.

Have a great week!


A Note from Laura and Pati

Laura Nownes
Laura Nownes
Pati Fried
Pati Fried

As we move into 2015 we are reminded of how grateful we are to you, our readers, who take time out of your busy lives to check in with us each week. There have been many changes here at SHWS since our first post went live in January of 2011. With a bit of trepidation and a leap of faith we hit the Publish button, taking our first step into the world of social media. As Jennifer moves on to pursue her dreams of writing her own blog at Chasing Bright Shiny Objects, we wish her all the best and hope you will follow along with her, as we plan to do.

We continue our commitment to share Ideas, Inspiration and Information with you. With those goals in mind, we have many plans for SHWS. We are excited to share some of the upcoming topics we have planned for you.

Kim Andersson
Kim Andersson

New Video Tutorials and Live Interviews

Starting off in a few weeks will be a “how-to” video on curve piecing to partner with our newest pattern, Making Waves.

Also scheduled on the calendar is an interview with the talented designer, Kim Andersson from Windham Fabrics, as she stops by to chat with us at See How We Sew.


1st shipment of fat quarters


New Fabrics

We will continue to feature new fabrics throughout the year.  Our latest shipment from P & B Textiles and Andover Fabrics is already sliced and pieced and making it’s way into some truly innovative new quilt designs.

And of course, we won’t forget to offer plenty of giveaways along the way!

Bel Air by Lauren Marcella for Andover Fabrics
Bel Air by Lauren Marcella for Andover Fabrics











New Products

We can’t wait to play with these new wedge rulers by Quint Measuring Systems. The largest one is huge . . . oh, the possibilities!

New Wedge rulers from Quint offers sizes from 9-36 degrees and lengths up to 24".
New Wedge rulers from Quint offers sizes from 9-36 degrees & lengths up to 24″.










Here’s a sneak peek at one of our new designs.Ombre wedge


New Patterns and Projects

Our Pattern Page is getting some current TLC and will soon be filled with creative new projects for you to explore! Check out  our newest pattern, Making Waves. We still have lots of free downloads available so take time to explore the many patterns available to you.



Carol Van Zandt

New Photo Galleries

We are very pleased to have Carol Van Zandt of The Plaid Portico join us periodically to share her view from the camera lens as she visits upcoming quilt exhibits. Carol does a fantastic job of capturing the essence of quilt shows and we are thrilled she has agreed to share her work with us on our Gallery Page moving forward.


Please stay tuned for all of the excitement as we shift gears and move forward into 2015. And remember to stay in touch with us on your favorite social media venue.

fb_icon_325x325      youtube     download     Pinterest-logo1-300x300

Until next time,

Laura & Pati



Adieu SHWS! I’m Off to Chasing Bright Shiny Objects

My neighbor has no idea how frequently I stalk her rose garden for photo opportunities!
One rose fades while others blossom–that’s my little ready-to-bloom rosebud peeking out from below

The time has come, the time is now:  exit Jennifer, stage right. Thank you very much for joining me on my See How We Sew journey. I absolutely will miss our collaborative blog and the boundless creative energies of Laura and Pati. Do consider joining me at Chasing Bright Shiny Objects, you are most welcome!

Jennifer Signature


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


Shortcuts! A few quick tricks for a fast, fun quilt.

A while back, I kept hearing about quick and fun ways to make blocks using unusual construction techniques. I would hear about one, then someone would say, “Oh -that reminds me of another one!” That’s when I started thinking it would be fun to put them all together into one quilt – and so I did.

It is appropriately named, Shortcuts!


Shortcuts! was designed so that it could easily be made with one layer cake, along with a few extra scraps, and a background fabric. Many of the blocks have a 3-dimensional aspect to them, which adds even more fun to the quilt. I taught this last spring in a workshop and the results were wonderful! I was surprised at how quickly the blocks went together. You can see some of the work here. Most of the students used a layer cake, so each quilt had a look completely different from the next.

At the end of January, I will be teaching the class again at Broadway Quilts in Sonoma, California. I wanted to make the quilt in a completely different color palette and a more contemporary style of fabrics to take with me. I used a colorful group of Grunge Basics, a selection from a layer cake called  Comma by Zen Chic and a fabulous background fabric from Jennifer Sampou’s newest line, color:Full.

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Same blocks, just a few tweaks on how many of each and a totally different placement.

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This time, I chose to showcase the background fabric and use it for the centers of my snowball blocks. It completely changed the overall look, don’t you think?
2015-01-12 12.14.31   2015-01-12 12.13.26

Most of the blocks have a 3-dimensional element tucked in.

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Awesome quilting by Kerry Reed. I love the back almost as much as the front.

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I am always looking for a new way to finish off the center of a Dresden. This one adds a bit of a rustic, folk art feel to the quilt. I simply stacked and fused some circles and then raveled the edges.

I love to rework a quilt in different fabrics to see how much it can vary from one quilt to the next. This quilt is so fun to make, I could just keep going and going! I am now putting the finishing touches on the pattern for this quilt. I will let you know when it is ready.

Have a fabulous weekend.

Pati Signature

Inspirational Photos to Begin the New Year


As I mentioned in a previous post, the San Jose Quilt Museum has been hosting a wonderful exhibit, Antique Amish Quilts from Ohio. Accompanying this is another exhibit, Amish – The Modern Muse, which is a selection of Amish inspired modern quilts. Modern Muse is a 2 part show, with the 2nd installation  to be opening soon. If you were not able to view the 1st installation, Carol Van Zandt of The Plaid Portico has posted a wonderful photo selection of the quilts on her blog. I thought it would be nice to share them with you.

So grab a cup of tea, get comfy and enjoy these Amish inspired beauties.

Read Carol’s post here: The Plaid Portico   cropped-tpp-header-4

Stop by on Friday to get a peek at what I have been up to since the crazy holiday season has ended.

Pati Signature

Margaret Linderman Shares Her Frida Kahlo Inspired Projects

Here she is, all decked out in her Frida Kahlo inspired vest. With a passion for color and design, quilt artist Margaret Linderman finds inspiration in the works of painter, Frida Kahlo. From quilts, to wearable arts and collage works, it’s evident that this talented woman just oozes creativity. It’s who she is and what she does.

Frida Kahlo Vest #1 designed and made by Margaret Linderman.
Frida Kahlo Vest #1 designed and made by Margaret Linderman.


Frida Kahlo Vest #1 designed and made by Margaret Linderman.
Frida Kahlo Vest #1 designed and made by Margaret Linderman.


This beautiful mola is the lining of the Frida Kahlo vest.
This beautiful mola is the lining of the Frida Kahlo vest.

If you missed my last post about Margaret’s recent surprise birthday party and beautiful Frida Kahlo quilt, simply click here to read about this special day. As promised, here are just a few of the many projects Margaret has made over the years. Enjoy!

Frida Kahlo jacket by Margaret Linderman based on a pattern by Marci Tilton.
Frida Kahlo jacket by Margaret Linderman based on a pattern by Marci Tilton.


Folkloric wallhanging. Our Lady of Guadalupe made with Guatemalan and Indian fabrics for All Souls Day.
Folkloric wallhanging. Our Lady of Guadalupe made with Guatemalan and Indian fabrics for All Souls Day.


Margaret with her Square in an Square quilt.
Margaret with her Square in an Square quilt.

Margaret joined the hexagons with marigold as she tells me that this color is the custom used on graves for All Souls Day.

Day of the Dead/All Souls Day quilt made for Margaret's granddaughter.
Day of the Dead/All Souls Day quilt made for Margaret’s granddaughter.


A beautiful example of Margaret's collage work used to border her silk jacket.
A beautiful example of Margaret’s collage work used to border her silk jacket.


A 1960s mola is added to the back of this jacket.
A 1960s mola is added to the back of this jacket.




Couldn’t resist sharing with you some of the beautiful silver bracelets Margaret is known for wearing.

A sampling of Margaret's collection of silver bracelets.
A sampling of Margaret’s collection of silver bracelets.

Here’s the cover of one of Margaret’s favorite books on Frida . . . obviously chock full of inspiration.



Thanks for stopping in today and wishing  you all a week filled with inspiration. Until next time…

Laura Signature



Quilter, Margaret Linderman Inspired by the Works of Frida Kahlo

Margaret wears a beautiful Frida Kahlo inspired headpiece made by Erica Cronin.
Margaret wears a beautiful Frida Kahlo inspired headpiece made by Erica Cronin.

Classy, kind, generous, talented, and gracious are just a few of the many adjectives one could use to describe one of our beloved local quilters, Margaret Linderman. Although Margaret has been the subject of a past post, her recent surprise birthday party inspired me to share with you the magic of that special day and  Frida Kahlo, the woman whose  paintings inspire much of Margaret’s beautiful work.

If you are not familiar with Frida Kahlo, you can visit this website which contains a wealth of biographical information along with images of her work.

Margaret has many interests, among them being quiltmaking and  wearable arts. Her work has been featured at both local quilt quild shows as well as the Pacific International Quilt Festival. In a recent interview, here’s what Margaret has to say about her interest in Frida Kahlo.

1.When did you first become interested in the work of Frida Kahlo?

In grade school (I was a student at the lab school at SDState) we studied murals. The school had a wonderful one in a hallway, so I became familiar with Diego Rivera, Mexico’s preeminent muralist. After moving to the San Francisco Bay Area in late 70s, I was invited to view a documentary about Frida Kahlo at the Pacific Film Archive in Berkeley. I only knew that she was the wife of Diego Rivera. My eyes were opened and I was curious to find out more about her. I particularly loved her costumes, her passion for animals and native plants that were evident in many of her paintings. I had always loved folkloric colors, costumes, and fabrics. At that time I was primarily interested in Art-to-Wear and small fiber constructions. When Alexander Henry issued their first Frida Kahlo fabric, I knew a Frida vest and jacket were about to emerge using techniques I had just learned at Empty Spools Seminars, a fabric collage class taught by Rosemary Eichorn.

Frida Kahlo fabric by Alexander Henry.
Frida Kahlo fabric by Alexander Henry.

2. What is it about Frida’s work that inspires you?

I saw the fabulous exhibit at SFMoMa of Frida’s work. I also saw the photographic exhibit in San Jose. Frida’s use of bold colors, dark subjects, and native flora and fauna inspired me to incorporate them into my work.

Magnolias by Frida Kahlo
Magnolias by Frida Kahlo
Fruits of the Earth by Frida Kahlo
Fruits of the Earth by Frida Kahlo

3. How do you use her designs, colors, etc. in your own work?

After taking Alethea Ballard’s  wonderful dream chair class, I knew I wanted to create a piece that was inspired by one of Frida’s paintings. The Frida and Diego Dream chair was that piece. I have continued to use images that were reminiscent of her work–but perhaps a little brighter. I am also a huge fan of the Day of the Dead or All Souls Day customs. Those images play well with Frida themes.

Margaret Linderman's "Dream Chair". Pattern by Alethea Ballard.
Margaret Linderman’s “Dream Chair”. Pattern by Alethea Ballard.


4.What types of projects have you made that reflect this inspiration?

Several quilts, vests, coats, and wall pieces dance with folkloric themes that are already completed.
I have a couple in the design process that incorporate floral tributes, skulls, and images of Frida.

It was no surprise that Margaret arrived at the party wearing one of her Frida inspired jackets.
It was no surprise that Margaret arrived at the party wearing one of her Frida inspired jackets.

In addition, I was lucky enough to have been gifted a lovely book about Frida Kahlo with commentary by Judy Chicago:  turning pages brings me information and images. And now I have my very own Frida quilt made for me by my friends and organized by my daughter, Janis and friends.

Margaret shares a special moment with her beautiful daughter, Janis Stob and dear friend, Alethea Ballard.
Margaret shares a special moment with her beautiful daughter, Janis Stob and dear friend, Alethea Ballard.
Friday Kahlo inspired birthday quilt for Margaaret.
Friday Kahlo inspired birthday quilt for Margaaret.
Detail showing center of quilt.
Detail showing center of quilt.

Be sure to check back on Friday as we share a gallery of Margaret’s work.

Until then, Happy January everyone!

Laura Signature