Autumn’s Blessings . . . Sweet, Delicious Apples! Tasty Recipes + A Pair of Snappy Apple Quilts


I’m so happy! It’s that time of the year again . . . pumpkins and apples and baking, oh my! After spending a relaxing weekend in Mendocino, CA, my husband and I stopped on the way home at Gowan’s Oak Tree Farm, a wonderful fruit stand in Philo where I purchased 20 lbs. of Gravenstein apples. I could hardly wait until the next morning, when I could transform them into a creamy and delicious apple butter. I knew that in addition to getting started on some tasty holiday gifts, my house would smell heavenly for the next 12 hours or so. I love it!

While meeting with my blogging sisters this week, I mentioned that I would be sharing my favorite apple butter recipe with you. They were quick to add their own contributions to my post. Seems like I’m not the only one who enjoys apples, any time of the year. This apple butter recipe comes compliments of my friend Sherry Hutchens and is adapted from an original by

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As you know from previous posts, Darra has committed to spending creative time each day making her original designs up into 3″ x 5″ fabric collages. Here’s an adorable piece she calls An Apple a Day.

"An Apple a Day", 3" x 5" collage by Darra Williamson.
“An Apple a Day”, 3″ x 5″ collage by Darra Williamson.

Pati graciously offered to share her favorite applesauce recipe. She writes: “Homemade applesauce is so easy to make and loved by everyone. This is a favorite in our house for comforting autumn dinners and an absolute must at Channukah to dollop onto potato latkes. The key is adding a few strips of lemon peel to the apples while cooking, and adding a hearty dose of ground cinnamon. The lemon brings out the apple flavor and the cinnamon makes it smell like Grandma’s house! I like a chunky texture, so I use a potato masher.”

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Darra’s friend, quilt artist Linda Smith (featured in an earlier post), shares a quilt that she made “a few years back”–one that has always been a hit with viewers. Given its vivid color, Linda has graced it with a most appropriate name: Red Delicious. I love the setting and the use of all the scraps.

"Red Delicious" made by Linda Smith
“Red Delicious” made by Linda Smith

It wasn’t until I looked closely at the detail shot that I discovered exactly how she pieced it. It’s so creative and not exactly what I expected.

"Red Delicious" (detail).
“Red Delicious” (detail).

Thanks so much to all of you for the terrific response to my post about Jennifer Sampou’s new fabric line. A fabric pack will be sent to Jill Brehon. Remember you have until the 15th for a second chance to win a fabric packet by visiting Jennifer’s website and signing up on her mailing list.

That’s it for today everyone. I think next week I may be experimenting with Spiced Pumpkin butter. Enjoy this wonderful season in whatever way you enjoy expressing your creativity.



From Great-Grandma’s Quilts to Gallery Walls: The Creative Journey of Linda Dease Smith

It’s always wonderful to hear of quilts being recognized in a gallery setting, and even more so when the quilter in question is a long-time friend. Linda Smith and I first met over 25 years ago in Boone, NC, as charter members of the newly formed Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild. Before long, she and I found ourselves part of a small group of five within the guild, sharing common interests and quilting road trips. We called ourselves The Common Threads, and one of our goals was to exhibit our work on a regular basis.

The Jones House Community and Cultural Center, Boone, NC; photo courtesy The Jones House
The Jones House Community and Cultural Center, Boone, NC; photo courtesy The Jones House

Our first opportunity came in the summer of 1995, when we were invited to exhibit at the historic Jones House Community and Cultural Center in downtown Boone. The month-long show was quite a success, attracting the attention of (the sadly, now-defunct) Lady’s Circle Patchwork Quilts magazine, which proposed a feature article about us and our exhibit. I was honored to write the text for that article. Here’s what I had to say then about Linda:

Linda Smith is the risk-taker (of the group). She laughs when we call her that, saying that we really mean “I jump right in when I don’t have a clue!” Not so. Instead, she is virtually fearless when it comes to quiltmaking, eager to try each newly discovered technique, viewing each step as an adventure. Her work is experimental, fresh, and exciting.

Two of Linda's pieces from the 1995 Common Threads exhibit; even then, she was showing signs of "breaking out of the box." Photo by Michael Siede.
Two of Linda’s pieces from the 1995 Common Threads exhibit; even then, she was showing signs of “breaking out of the box.” Photo by Michael Siede.

Very little has changed since I wrote those words so long ago. If anything, Linda has become even more of an adventurer and innovator. As she continues to push her creative boundaries, she seeks also to explore new venues for showing her work.

Earlier this spring, Linda’s work was featured as part of a four-woman exhibit called Wrapped Up in You at The Gallery at Macon (GA) Arts Alliance. The other three artists were clay artist Malena Bisanti-Wall, jewelry designer Cheri Lesauskis, and mixed-media artist (and the gallery’s Fine Art Director) Heatherly Wakefield.

New works by my friend, Linda Smith, were part of a recent, four-woman show at The Gallery of Macon (GA) Arts Alliance.
New works by my friend, Linda Smith, were part of a recent, four-woman show at The Gallery of Macon (GA) Arts Alliance.

Like many of us, Linda started out as a strictly traditional quilter. She made her first quilt in the mid-1970s from a kit, and went on to quilt a few tops that had been pieced by her great-grandmother. As a career counselor (Director of the Career Center at Appalachian State University in Boone), Dr. Smith spent her days helping college students explore post-graduate options. What could be more natural than exploring post-traditional possibilities for fabric and thread?

“I started ‘going off’ in the mid-90s,” Linda recalls. “I had been making tons of little nine patches that I planned to use for a Postage Stamp quilt. I realized that wasn’t going to happen, so I started to explore other ways to use those blocks.” The Skewed Nine Patch quilt (in the photo above) was one of those early experiments.

Nowadays, Linda describes her approach as “somewhere between what if and why not.” Her contribution to the Macon exhibit included a series she calls Meditation. Its 12 pieces grew from a “somewhat non-specific, between-class” exercise inspired by a class with quilt artist, Hollis Chatelain. All 12 pieces were made using the same elements: two or three rectangles, nine squares, and some lines. Each measures approximately 13″ x 16.”

Linda Smith with some pieces from her recent Meditation series shown in Macon (GA) earlier this year. Her friendly companion is China, pet of the gallery director.
Linda Smith with some pieces from her recent Meditation series shown in Macon (GA) earlier this year. Her friendly companion is China, pet of the gallery director.

“As I began making these little pieces, I decided that if I liked the design, I would take it as far as I could with different fabrics, in different combinations, to create different moods. All were made entirely from fabrics in my stash.” she says. The materials are a mix of commercial fabrics, batiks, Cherrywood hand dyes, and others that she dyed or painted herself. “It’s amazing when you stop to look at what you have. I know that some quilters don’t want to cut into those ‘special’ fabrics. I want to use them! Sometimes I barely had enough, so I had to be creative.”

Four pieces from Linda Smith's Meditation series
Four pieces from Linda Smith’s Meditation series

Linda finished each piece with a clean faced edging (see Jennifer’s April 16 post) and a sleeve on all four sides to insert flat molding. Always on the lookout for the next innovation, she adds, “Next time, I might try affixing the pieces to artist’s canvas.”

From Linda Smith's Meditation series (13" x 16")
From Linda Smith’s Meditation series (13″ x 16″)
Detail of piece shown above
Detail of piece shown above
Another piece from Linda Smith's Meditation series (13" x 16")
Another piece from Linda Smith’s Meditation series (13″ x 16″)
Detail of piece above
Detail of piece above

In addition to the dozen 13″ x 16″ pieces, Linda continued to experiment, this time with size, ultimately expanding her series to include one larger piece (20″ x 24″) and a few small framed pieces.

As an extention of her Meditation series, Linda made one larger, and two smaller, framed pieces.
As an extention of her Meditation series, Linda made one larger, and two smaller, framed pieces.

These days, Linda splits her time between three locations: Boone, Macon, and Amelia Island, FL. (After the Macon exhibit closed, the remaining pieces of her Meditations series went on to the Amelia SanJon Gallery in Fernandina Beach, FL.) While she admits that working from three places can be a challenge, she manages to cope very nicely. Boone remains the center of primary operation, “but I carry my Pfaff everywhere.”

Her quilting continues to become more collage-like. To this end, she takes not only quilting classes, but collage classes, recognizing that “the two overlap and inform each other.” She enjoys combining paper collage and quilted fabric.

One of Linda's pieces combining paper collage and quilted fabric
One of Linda’s pieces combining paper collage and quilted fabric

The fiber pieces are completed first and then hand-stitched to a collaged or painted canvas. Leaves and trees are a primary recurring theme and although she is often pulled to the more abstract (as in her Meditation series), trees and leaves always seem to pull her back.

Detail of Linda's piece combining paper collage and quilted fabric
Detail of Linda’s piece combining paper collage and quilted fabric
The Artist's Way (book) by Julia Cameron
The Artist’s Way (book) by Julia Cameron

For the past few years, Linda has belonged to a small group in Boone comprised of visual artists of various media who expand and inspire her– who encourage her to think outside the box. This group, an offshoot of a 12-week Artist’s Way workshop series, forced her to think of herself as an artist. “It’s been a very powerful experience for me.” At the same time, she continues to “treasure and cherish” the traditional quilting community, particularly through her membership and participation in Macon’s largely traditional Heart of Georgia Quilt Guild. Evidence of this dual appreciation is evident in her Macon home, where old and new pieces exist serenely side by side.

Two quilts by Linda Smith, one "vintage" and one recent
Two quilts by Linda Smith, one “vintage” and one recent
A closer look at that quilt on the wall: Linda's Funky Flowers
A closer look at that quilt on the wall: Linda’s Funky Flowers

As for sources of inspiration, Linda lists “lots of classes, lots of books (mostly quilt-related at first, but now expanded to include more art-related books as well), attendance at art shows and galleries, and Pinterest. I find so much inspiration there!”

Her advice to those quilters who want to try something new: “Don’t be afraid, don’t worry about what others will say about your art, forget the quilt police. A couple of years from now, my work may look totally different, which might be a good thing. I like to evolve.”

We’ll be watching, Linda!

Before I sign off, I’ve got good news for two SHWS readers–the winners of the double giveaway in our recent First Quilt, Latest Quilt post featuring Verna Mosquera. Ginabeth is the winner of the Prima Ballerina pattern and the packet of eight fat quarters from Verna’s Pirouette fabric line and Kathy Renz has won the packet of 5″ Pirouette charm squares. Ladies, please contact us via with your snail mail addresses and we’ll get your winnings on the way. Thanks again to Verna for providing so generously for our giveaway.

‘Til next time, happy stitching.Darra-signature

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!

Bust Quilter’s Block…and Boost Creativity

Wow! My April 22 post about quilter’s block really struck a chord! We had some terrific follow-up conversation about causes and solutions. If you haven’t already, do go back and read the comments..some great ideas (and wisdom) there. Congratulations to Sharie-Moss Bluff, winner of the Art and Fear book giveaway. (Sharie-Moss, if you’ll email me your mailing address at, I’ll get the book out to you post haste.)

One of my favorite (quilter’s) block-busting techniques is to make a tiny 3″ x 5″ collage quilt every day for a week…or two or three. Here’s the catch: I limit myself to 30 minutes for each little quilt, start to finish.

This exercise has amazing potential, not just for busting quilter’s block, but for cranking up your creativity. The area to cover is unintimidating–perfect for auditioning an idea, a composition, a technique, or new materials before launching into a larger project. The 30-minute rule limits your investment of time, and keeps you from laboring over every little decision. Not happy with today’s result? As Scarlett would say: “Tomorrow is another day.”

Want to give it a try? Okay…set your alarm for 30 minutes and let’s go!

  • Cut a 3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ scrap each of background or “base” fabric for the front, backing fabric, and batting. Cut two 3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ pieces of your favorite lightweight fusible. The 3-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ size gives you wiggle room for trimming later.

    Cut everything 3 -1/2" x 5-1/2".
    Cut everything 3-1/2" x 5-1/2".
  • Prepare both sides of the batting for fusing. Fuse the backing to one side and the background or base fabric to the other, both with right sides facing out.

    Fuse front and back fabrics to batting.
  • Now…have fun!! Raid your scrap bag and fuse fabric scraps to the base fabric. Create a landscape, a still life, an abstract design. Add thread, yarn and/or ribbons with couching or embroidery. Play with beads, buttons, charms, or other embellishments. Experiment with rubber stamping and photo transfer. Cover the surface with quilting stitches, using those decorative threads you’ve been hoarding.
    I've pulled all my collage fabrics from the scraps in this box!
  • Time’s up! Trim the finished piece to 3″ x 5″. Stitch the raw edges with a straight, satin, or other decorative machine stitch…or cut 3/4″-wide strips from fabric prepared with fusible, fold the strips over the sides, press, and stitch.

In a future post, I’ll give you some ideas for displaying your handiwork.

**Spring Market Alert** Next week, I’ll be at the Salt Palace Convention Center, Salt Lake City, UT, to promote my new book, A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue. It’s a Martingale & Company spring release, co-authored with my very dear British friend, Christine Porter. I’ll be doing a Schoolhouse in Room #255D on Thursday, May 12, at 12:05 p.m., and signing books on Friday, May 13, in the M’gale booth (#1200) at 10 a.m. and at Brewer Quilting & Supply (#730) at 1 p.m. Stop by and say “hi” if you’re “in the house.”