Thursday, September 10, 2015

Sifting and Winnowing

Labor Day has passed, and finally there is some cool fall air, rainy days, perfect for cleaning the sewing room, sorting through mountains of "stuff," and tackling the stash.  I will do a little a day so my back doesn't give out, but it is overwhelming.  A lifetime of fabric, scraps from quilts, and I hate to admit I have a hard time saying goodbye to any fabric.

However it is time to get organized and make some decisions about all this.  Fortunately there are people who need fabric and will put it to good use.  My sister is already on her way to a beautiful star quilt that she calls a "stash buster" and more is on the way to her.  Every day I feel a sense of accomplishment as a drawer is cleaned, books are sorted and organized and designated for keeping or giving away.  Piles are formed, my life in quilting is passing in front of me.

I found books or magazines that I wondered why I had kept them, and after paging through would find an article I had written or one about me, or a photo of one of my quilts.  I had forgotten I wrote so much and said "yes" to so many publications.  

And, I've taken time to pause and read notes from you, quilters I've met in classes, or from quilters I've never met.  So many of you took the time to leave me a note at the end of class, give me a little gift, and I've kept them all and treasure them.  I love these, and it was so nice rediscovering them.

As I sort the fabrics, and I've only begun, I realize I am still drawn to the same favorites, whether by color, print, or style.  I lovingly pick each up and fold it neatly and admire it.  Some I do wonder what was I thinking, or why did I buy it, but not many at all.  And oh the scraps!  Each one brings back the memory of the quilt it comes from, the making of it, the finished result.  Most of them I no longer have, so .......should I keep the remnants?  Probably not.  I must be practical.  

Before I began there were so many stacks and bins and piles of things I couldn't walk into my sewing room, or see the floor.  Now the outer hall is clean and tidy (that took a few days) and my room beckons, with shining floor, even a rug for Oliver and a stool by the window for him.  I have a new ironing board cover (grey with ivory Diane-shiko), and only three sewing machines.  I need to pare that down to two as well.  

The cutting table is clear and has a wall quilt on it resting and getting de-creased.  I will hang it soon.  It doesn't have a sleeve as the hand sewing with my painful hands was too much so I'll put it up with a few straight pins nailed into the wall.  

I found one sewing pattern I had saved, and it has to be from the 80's when I was still sewing clothes including long riding skirts as shown in this pattern:

Yikes, the shoulder pads!!  I plead Guilty, I wore them.  I could whip out a skirt in wool gabardine or silk in about an hour and it fit me perfectly.  This pattern was never used; I went up in size and sort of gave up on sewing for myself, but it would work now, so.....I am keeping it.  You never know.

In August Oliver turned six!  We went out to eat to celebrate and raised glasses of iced tea to our lovely boy.  Despite my shock when our new vet suggested it might be good for him to have some wet food added to his diet, he has taken to it perfectly.  He is now NOT a Vegan, but a true carnivore cat, although he does not like any people food except raw veggies and corn silk.  He isn't allowed to eat corn silk but he sniffs it out with black-eyed excitement.  He is still a little bi-polar and OCD, but that is very typical for a cat.

He has mellowed a little and is very happy.  His thunder purring is amazing, and it's the little things that he loves:  both of us at home, clean sheets and the making of the bed, an empty paper bag, Mom washing things in the sink with lots of running water, us keeping to routine, the usual cat pleasures. 

His birthday included a stack of canned cat food with 6 candles atop, and a card from his godparents in AZ, below.  He was a happy boy.

My email is working well again, still haven't tackled new software and a website update, although just getting the software was an accomplishment!    

Many of you are emailing me with questions about quilting, and I try to answer as best I can.  I still maintain that with every quilt project you do, you encounter new problems and must come up with a way to work it out.  You think you know it all, but you never do.  It keeps things interesting.

So  Happy Fall and .....keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day,

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Remembering Jean Lohmar.....

Tequila Sunrise by Jean Lohmar

On this beautiful July day while walking outdoors, something in the colors in nature all around me suddenly reminded me of my quilting friend Jean Lohmar who passed away in May.  The deep sky blue, the brilliant colors of the flowers, even the dark grey of the parking lot all jumped out and reminded me of Jean's love of color in her quilts.  Despite the sunshine I felt a moment of loss and sadness.

In June when I heard the news of Jean's death  I was not only saddened but surprised.  Jean always seemed ageless, always so energetic and active, planning another quilt with one in progress on her machine.  I know many of you who read my blog might have known her too.  She was an integral part of the home machine quilting revolution and was a quilter for many years, prolific in exhibiting and teaching, and recipient of many awards and recognition for her work.  

Back in the late 1980's I first heard Harriet Hargrave lecture and was beyond excited to try and quilt an entire bed quilt on my home sewing machine.  I searched and was able to buy a copy of Harriet's landmark book Heirloom Machine Quilting.  One of my favorite gallery photos included was a traditional quilt called Spoon River Christmas by Jean Lohmar.  I loved it, and made a mental note of her name.

Some years passed, and with trial and error, hard work and perseverance I succeeded at home machine quilting, entered quilts in many shows, and in 1998 taught my first classes at the AQS Quilt Show in Paducah.  One of my students was Jean Lohmar, who also had a winning quilt in the show that year.  

She introduced herself and I grinned and said with excitement: "Spoon River Christmas!!!"  From that moment we were friends, sharing quilting information and ideas, our paths crossing again and again over the years.  Jean was a part of my Camp Diane, and many of you knew her from her programs, lectures and trunk shows, many with her dear friend Millie Sorrells.  I always looked forward to Awards Night at Paducah; old friends Jean, Millie, and Marla just might be there!

Three years ago I was fortunate to see her one-woman quilt exhibit at Wisconsin Quilt Expo in Madision, WI.  It was a glorious retrospective, one quilt after another, as Jean always worked hard and when an idea struck, she made and finished a quilt.  It was amazing to see them all together like that, quilts that were old friends, some that I had missed in person but had seen in photos.

 Jean and I literally bumped into each other at the exhibit and had a hug, big smiles, and a quick visit, both marveling at how far we had come, how far quilting had come since we had first met.  With a smile and wave we said goodbye, always looking forward to another meeting at another quilt event.

Sadly, that was the last time I saw Jean.  I will remember her with happiness and fondness from all the times we were together: Jean smiling, energetic and smart and funny and caring. 

Many of you will miss her too, but we have the legacy of her spirit and her work for inspiration, and we will also remember what a true quilting friend she was, a very special lady. She will be missed.


p.s.  I inadvertently first posted a quilt photo of Mildred Sorrells' "Butterfly's Delight" at the top of this post and attributed it to Jean but that was incorrect, and that photo has been removed.  I found  the quilt photo online under Jean's name but that was not accurate.  Sorry for the error, and apologies to Millie.  Please play the video below to see a lovely array of Jean's quilts, and enjoy the photo of her award-winning "Tequila Sunrise," above, sent to me by her close friend Marla Yeager.  

In Remembrance of Jean Lohmar 1929 ~ 2015
For her obituary, please click HERE.
For a video of her work made by her son, click HERE.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Off the Grid

Photo by Joan Coats

Monday greetings to all......I have been living "off the grid" for a few months, some of it totally unintentional!  An injury, retirement, and the usual daily "stuff" have all kept me busy and away from quilting.  We discontinued our landline and got new smart phones which I do love and I also love no constant phone calls on the landline.  However, my website email was dropped due to an office error at my IP, and I didn't know it, so I've missed quite a lot of communications from all this.  

After some phone calls to right the situation, my email is working again, my website is back online, and I purchased some new software so perhaps I will be able to update that once again, and add current tips and info.  It's hard for me to believe I've even had a website for so many years.   Stay tuned!

Even when I haven't been quilting, my quilter's eye is seeing the world from a point of view always affected by my love of color and design.  The drape and color of Oliver's tail on a magenta pillow, so beautiful, placed just right for the correct proportion, or the colors of the summer sky at dusk, how beautiful.  These things remind me of quilts and the delights of working with fabric, thread, color.  

Every now and again I browse through my FB page and see the incredible quilts and work so many of you are doing.  Quilting is going forward with new ideas and designs and I congratulate all the quilters who are sharing their work and tips and ideas, keeping it all alive.  

"Rabbit in Green"  40" Silk wholecloth, Diane Gaudynski 2005

Meanwhile, today there is the outside trim on the garage door to scrape and paint, another rainstorm might prevent that though, boxes of old files and papers to sort and prepare for shredding, and some great shows I've recorded on PBS await me this evening.  I love the new "Poldark" series.....

Hope all of you can keep quilting!  Your work gets better everyday.....

Email:   or

Saturday, April 4, 2015


Easter Eggs by Joan Coats

From snow and cold to wind, sun, and springtime so fast my head is spinning!  Happy Spring to everyone, hope your Easter weekend is wonderful.  We are loving NO snow, getting around easily, spring coats....whoever thought it would feel so good to put on a light pretty spring jacket?  I thought I was doomed to live in my puffer parka forever.  Argh......!

I haven't been quilting, as "other things" took over my life recently.  Some eye problems which are doing better now, lunches with friends, getting new smart phones and learning how to use them while trying to activate them, not a recommended procedure.  However, I now know my little sweet phone so well, and am glad I finally took the plunge and feel like an adult with my slim cool phone tucked in my purse.  It is truly amazing what it can do.

Then......we got rid of our phone land line!  It was scary, but it is very freeing not to have that phone ringing all day, early in the a.m., during meals, during evenings, during showers, drove me crazy.  It is blissfully quiet now, and if you must contact me, please use my usual email: 

I did have to figure out and hook up our new high-speed internet, but that went well too.  I also had to face the spaghetti of cables and wires and confusion behind our tv when the DVR from our cable company just decided to quit working right and wouldn't record.  

Detective work on my part indicated our DVD player sitting beneath the cable DVR was not working, but it was all looped together in a maze of scary cordage.  I mapped out all the connections, drew a picture, pulled cables out of the DVD player, re-hooked pertinent cables to the DVR and tv using common sense, and voila, it worked perfectly!  Whew......needed some coffee and chocolate after that day.

It has been stressful but I feel the demands of modern day technology either require someone in your life who does it for you, professionals coming in and doing it and making you feel like the old folks on the sofa, or learning how to do it yourself.  I chose the latter and am happy everything is perking along fine.

Oliver helped us do the taxes one weekend, sat on the calculator, rummaged and messed up the stacks of papers, and finally left to take a power nap upstairs in peace and quiet while we added, listed stuff, and double checked.  He is so handsome and gets sweeter every day.  He goes in for his yearly vaccination this week so we're not looking forward to that.  

And......we celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary, photo below.  I lost all our wedding photos in a house catastrophe over 20 years ago, but last year we got my mother-in-law's photo of us with her other two children, framed and on her dresser her entire life.   I dug it out of the cupboard recently as it was so faded I didn't want any more light on it, opened the frame to take a photo with my new phone (fantastic camera and I can edit right on the camera.....who knew???), and there, stuck behind the photo she displayed, was one of my husband Alan and me, faded but not too bad.  

It was 1969 and Edwardian style was in.  I had very short dyed dark brown hair after a swimming pool in college turned my light hair a pea soup green.  The large cabbage ribbon thing on my head covered most of it!  The sleeves and bodice were sheer, and there was a lovely lace applique down the entire center to the hem, with tiny buttons.  How young we were, hard to believe we didn't even know it. 

I just finished making this plate of deviled eggs for our grazing day of eating, as we are going out for Easter dinner tomorrow.  The card is from a friend who sends me pretty postcards every now and then in the mail, brightening my day each time.  This one was left on the counter and I discovered the rabbit's eye was missing after Oliver checked it out.  I found it down in the grassy stuff on the card, which fortunately was not eaten.  

Hope all of you are enjoying spring, getting out to spend time at quilt events, and doing some quilting.  I hope to get back to my quilting soon and will post some updates on my adventure into working with feed dogs.

Keep quilting!  It is the most relaxing meditative thing I have ever done....happy spring,

Monday, February 16, 2015

A Winter's Pace

The days are cold, snow covers the landscape, and the light has changed, coming in at different angles and illuminating old favorites in a new way.  It's ok to slow down one's pace, linger with coffee a bit longer, have lunch with a friend, work on no-pressure projects or explore new ideas in your work.

I have been playing at my machine and trying new techniques for fun on these long bright afternoons where it is good to be cozy and warm in my upstairs room, music playing, machine on and back in action.  I have re-discovered feed dogs, thick lustrous embroidery threads,  and programmed stitches!  

Years ago I included some broderie perse on one of my quilts, October Morning, a Delectable Mountains pattern with a good central spot that cried out for this vintage technique.  I vaguely remember learning how to use my machine, digging out the right foot, adjusting the stitch and tension to get the look I wanted for the fused raw edge applique, and enjoying it very much.

"October Morning" 1999

Now I wanted to try something more modern so I have been using ancient fusible web that was still where I left it in 1999 and watching my needle zig where I wanted it to zag, and saying "oh no!" out loud.  Ah, the joys of trying to figure it all out.

I winged it at first (how does fusible web work???), then consulted my personal quilt book library and read how various authors recommend doing this.  I have lots of info now from art quilts to very traditional formal work, and hope to try some new things tomorrow.  I have enjoyed rediscovering how to do this and who knows where it may lead.  Broderie Perse?  Coneflowers?  Tiny circles?  One thing I know is I must buy some fresh fusible web before doing anything more.

Meanwhile, my bit of advice is if you never try something you will never really for sure know if you do like it or not, if you can do it or not, if it has some promise for wiling away an afternoon or two......and to include it in a future quilt, or not.

Hope you had a chocolate or flower-filled Valentine's Day.....and I have so loved hearing from so many of you in comments or emails.  It's good to be back.

Keep quilting, your work gets better every day,

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Celtic Bubbles as Background

I have been practicing Celtic Bubbles around a flower I quilted several years ago to see if I liked making this design smaller to use as a background, rather than as a design in itself with the lines spaced farther apart in each spiral.  

Here you see how the design nestles around the large simple shapes of the flower, and it wasn't too hard to do.  The ruler gives you a guide as to the size of the quilting, the flower, and the background spacing which is a scant 1/8".  It is time consuming, but then so are tiny bubbles or pebbles, stippling, little bananas, any closely spaced background technique.  

When I taught this design I always suggested beginning with a scant 1/4" spacing, something your brain is so good at estimating from doing piecing, and continue with this spacing until you have mastered the technique.  It is by far the easiest spacing for almost everyone, and the easiest to do on a home machine with limited space.  

When you feel confident, then try some bubbles with decreased spacing, or make them larger, whatever is your inclination.  Keep in mind it is far easier to quilt large circles, with more space between the lines of stitching, on a longarm machine than a home machine.  It is easier for me to go smaller on my home machine than bigger, always.  So keep that in mind.  However, some quilters naturally tend towards larger designs and spacing, some do better small scale.

What I like about doing these spirals is they begin in the center and are so controlled as you quilt.  I never felt like things were getting away from me, but I could go fairly fast too the bigger the spiral became.  Doing the same shape/technique over and over really helps you improve quickly and gain confidence.  It goes faster than you would think and stays interesting for you, never boring.

One reason I find it fun to do is that each spiral shape has to bump into something already quilted and you have to resolve the design so it looks layered, looks as if it is peeking out from behind the flower, feather, another spiral, etc.  It isn't hard to do this, but takes control to slow down as you approach a line of stitching, stitch over it to get to the point where the next round of the spiral should appear.  

This control makes the design look very precise and intricate, gives it the "wow" factor.  If you are sloppy and just mush things in or miss your travel stitching the design becomes just lines and stitches and you lose the clarity of the floating spirals all layered in the background.

For the tutorial on Celtic Bubbles please see this earlier blog post.

Some things I discovered:
  • If there are little nooks and crannies, long skinny spaces, odd spaces where it would be exceedingly difficult to add arcs or continue the spiral design, simply fill these with echo quilting, small bubbles or pebbles, tiny stippling.  As I echo the focal point quilting (here, the flower) I filled in some of these odd areas as I went.  The last echo of the design will be with the color thread used for the Celtic Bubbles so traveling will not show.
  • Begin at the center of each spiral, being careful not to start too far from another bubble or something you'll bump into.  If you do start too far away, the spiral will become very large indeed, and more difficult to do, and will stand out from the others.  However if you want larger and fewer spirals, the farther away you start one from a completed one, the bigger it will become.
  • Speed is important to keep your control.  I begin with a nice even slower speed to establish the circle shape, then speed up the machine to keep up with my hands as they go faster to keep the big smooth circles going well.  If you speed up your hands to make the larger arcs, the stitches will get way too big if you don't speed the machine too.  If stitches start out very small and get very large by the last circle it means your machine was not keeping up with your hands.  Work on it and it will become natural to speed up the machine to keep up with your hand movement so you get smooth spirals from the center all the way out.
  • I seem to do my Celtic Bubbles counterclockwise.  I don't know what that means......!  But, it just feels natural.
  • You can gradate the sizing of these and begin with larger ones, with greater spacing, then slowly decrease their size and the spacing.  This would give you a more artistic effect, perfect for pictorial quilts or art quilts.  Experiment!  Try different thread colors on your fabric to see what looks best before you commit.
I hope you give these a try and learn to love doing them as I do.  I wouldn't fill vast spaces with tiny ones, but these work so well in a small area to set off quilting or applique.  

It's a sunny cold day here in Wisconsin, with more snow from overnight, and Oliver is sleeping on the bed near me with spiked fur on the top of his head from the faucet water running off his head as he drank.  I usually remember to smooth it down, but it has dried into hard spikes, the punk cat look.  He is such a sweetie.

Keep quilting!  A little bit every day is a very good thing.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Libby's Log Cabin

If you love this quilt and would like a chance to help with Libby Lehman's medical expenses you can make a donation to her medical fund and be entered in the February 13th drawing for this quilt.   Marianne Fons made this classic and beautiful log cabin quilt to help raise funds for Libby and will pull the winning entry out of a hat!  

Please go to the page on the Moda website  to read Libby's story and see the all the details.  It's a great way to use our love of quilting and show our love for Libby.

"Libby's Log Cabin" by Marianne Fons, 60" x 75"

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments since I started posting again on my blog, and I hope to post more quilting info soon.  Meanwhile.....

Keep quilting!  Your work gets better every day!