Saturday, November 14, 2015

Hope Blooms

Hope Blooms 2015 Rana O'Connor
A small tribute to a long time colleague in the world of foster/adoptive care. We worked together for many years on a collaborative team designed to raise awareness of the need for foster/adoptive parents and to support families who work with Maine's treatment foster care agencies and the Office of Child and Family Services.

Jo recently retired. I hoped to recover a banner we once created for a fundraiser with the statement, "Hope Blooms in Foster Care." The banner was long gone, though, so I set about to make Jo her very own memento.

Pulling scraps of fabric for the petals, I found a green swirled fabric in my stash for the flower center and applique letters. The girl with balloons came from fabric we used in a more recent banner. The muslin background seemed plain, but a set of alphabet stamps came to the rescue, and I stamped h-o-p-e randomly across the field. Thread paint for the petals and quilting in the flower center and background complete this roughly 15" square wall hanging.

After years of tireless advocacy on the part of Maine's children and foster/adoptive families, I wish Jo many years of happiness ahead. Cheers!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Wedding Quilt Part 2

This weekend is all about making progress on the wedding quilt, commissioned by a friend for her son's wedding. Having pieced the top, incorporating fabrics from the duffel bag full of fabric she gathered in his grandmother's storeroom and sections cut from the woodblock printed bedspread, it is time to stop procrastinating and get on with the quilting.

An encounter this summer with a woman who quilted large pieces on her home sewing machine gave me pointers on how to wrangle this quilt. I layered the center two-thirds with batting and backing, leaving two wide side sections aside. Less fabric has made maneuvering the quilt under my machine manageable. The center section is nearly complete. By the end of the weekend I hope to have figured out how to attach the sides, if not quilt them.

I am always impressed by how quilting elevates and completes a piece, adding nuance and definition, taking the piece from flat to dimensional. It is an issue I have with some quilt shows, that award prizes to the person who created the top, regardless of whether they quilted the piece or had it quilted by someone else. The person doing the quilting may be mentioned, but is often not included in the award. There are pieces that are entered as the collaborative work of two people. I believe if the quilt is stitched by more than one person, all parties should be equally recognized. Compare the photos in this post to those of the quilt taking shape but not yet quilted, here. 

Friday, October 16, 2015

Fall in Maine

I have been absent, not posting for a while. I wish I could say I was busy finishing quilts, but not so. Although I did deliver over 35 quilts to Kimball St Studios in Lewiston for Art Quilts Maine's second annual show! It is beautifully hung and it is not too late to view it. We have just decided to keep the quilts on display until October 29, so if you are in the area, stop by. Click the link for information on the gallery. Included in the show is this year's Travelling Challenge Quilt Show, the theme of which is fabric manipulation. The Travelling Challenge will be at Portland Public Library next, during December and January. Some truly creative pieces in that group!
We also traveled to Florida and Honu found a home, hanging on a wall at Jerry's Mom and PaPa Joe's home. It really is the perfect spot for this wall hanging, since we went with them to Hawaii, on the trip that inspired Honu.
I teach a full class tomorrow at Sew Portland on Free Motion Quilting. If you didn't get into this session, I'll be scheduling another one--maybe after the holidays. Meanwhile, work is progressing on the wedding quilt commission and a new round robin series.

I recently made up a new batch of Quiltini Pins and will be looking for opportunities to put them out for sale. Once I get started they are addicting to make--each a tiny, embellished quilt with glitz and glitter!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Friendship Maine

4 days, 5 quilts and more. A fitting end of summer retreat. I am teaching a techniques class at Sew Portland this weekend and next on creating quilts from photos (like these!) Call the store to see if there is space available at 797-6700.
Morning Walk
Fairies live here


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Friendship Ahead

Student work, 'Picture This!'
Summer flew by in a flurry of visitors and travel. We got the dining room/studio window replaced and repainted the room, finally! Although the design wall went up last weekend, my sewing machine is waiting for clear space on the table. I plan to kick start sewing again with a long Labor Day weekend retreat in Friendship, Maine. 4 days and 7 projects--maybe more!

I've also scheduled fall classes at Sew Portland. 'Picture This!' an all techniques class, spans two full Saturdays. Starting with a photo (or two) I describe how to turn photos into patterns and patterns into quilt tops. In class we'll be using a photo of mine taken in Friendship, but the techniques will translate to your own photos. My favorite part of this class is creating the tree!

The class was popular enough when I taught it last year in Trenton, that I created a pattern, 'Safe Harbor' which is available for sale at Sew Portland. No need to purchase my pattern for class though--I will provide what you need and teach you to make your own patterns. 'Picture This!' is scheduled for September 12 and 19.

I teach Free Motion Quilting on October 17. If you've been waiting for that one to come around, it isn't posted yet but they will take your name at the store or over the phone.

Taking a few months off of quilting wasn't easy, but I did take lots of photos to inspire new pieces this fall.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Summer in Maine. Time to get out and enjoy other people's work at quilt shows, craft shows and galleries. Time to visit and reconnect with family and friends from away. We plan to paint the dining room/studio so, for the first time in a long while, the design wall is empty. I've been working on a commissioned king-size bed quilt for which I was asked to include a woodblock printed heavy cotton, with images of Cyrus the Great, Ahura-Mazda and protective Lamassu! What to do? I collected over 30 fabrics before I dared cut up the hand-blocked textile. I took courage from the fact that the piece had stains and would likely not be used again as it was. Keeping the piecing simple showcases the focus fabrics. A center section and borders are pieced but separate. I am contemplating whether to quilt in sections, complete the top before quilting on my trusty Elna, or complete then send the top to a long-arm quilter. I think my next step will be to work on quilting designs. That may drive the final decision. Here's a sneak peak!
Center panel

Saturday, May 30, 2015

One Done!

One more student quilt from the Voila class! Lisa completed her quilt with binding to match the brown and green polka-dot flower centers and first time free-motion quilting throughout the green background. Although she nearly changed her mind on the orange petals, they make a bright, sunny quilt. Way to go! She sent along this photo with her comment, which says it all--"love it, love it, love it!!!" 

Lisa's finished quilt

Thursday, May 21, 2015


I am teaching a two-day class at Sew Portland (part 2 is this Saturday.) We are working on raw-edge fusible applique. I designed an easy baby size quilt to learn on.

Last Saturday we spent time choosing fabrics--each student had her own unique vision. Fabric shopping is so much fun! We could have spent the whole day playing with fabrics but eventually we got to work cutting and stitching the backgrounds and learning to use fusible web. The product we used in class is Steam-a-Seam II Lite. My personal favorite is an oldie but goodie, Wonder Under. I love that stuff. But Steam-a-Seam has the advantage of acting like a Post-It note until you are ready to hit it with the iron, so the applique pieces go on the design wall, get moved around until you love it, then set with the iron, no pinning involved! A huge advantage in a classroom situation or for working on the large-sized petals in this pattern.

With tops done, students headed home to spray-baste the quilts in preparation for this week's completion session. If all goes according to plan, they will secure the fused applique with a variety of stitches, add some quilting in the background (free motion here we come!) and finally, apply the binding entirely by machine.

I couldn't resist showing off Victoria's completed top--she chose prints for her flower petals and added a border to make the quilt a little bigger. Flower Power!
Victoria's top

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

First Friday!

Linda Morrisette "Mermaid"  Diane Brause "Lighthouse" Rana O'Connor "Dream"
On my list for the last few years has been to participate as an artist in First Friday Art Walk in Portland, and this past Friday, I had the pleasure of exhibiting (along with many other quilters and fabric artists) at St Luke's Cathedral on State Street. What a venue!

The organizers, Pat and John Fowler, did an amazing job. Pat must have called every quilter she knew in Maine. I had about 30 pieces from quilters and fabric artists with Art Quilts Maine and Calico Quilters in Yarmouth. As we were setting up, the doors kept opening and in would come another woman or two with suitcases and boxes filled with quilts.

I thought the juxtaposition of traditional quilts and fabric art would be inspiring, and it was beyond expectations. Traditional quilts were draped over every pew, filling half of the church with color. Art quilts were hung from easels all around. A wonderful pianist provided live music, a table held wine and cheese, and around 5:30, people started coming in. The turnout was great.

People walked in, took a minute to absorb the riot of color, then took time to talk to quilters who showed off their handiwork, describing the impetus for a certain quilt, unfolding another to reveal details. Said Pat, "I think this was the best showing of any art that we have had in the cathedral in the 3 years that we have been participating in the Art Walk." The photos tell the story. We'll be back next year!

Mary Hodgkin "Wavy Logs in Batik"

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Makers at the Public Library

Suzie McCormack and I had the pleasure of being "makers" at the Portland Public Library last Saturday. Our workshop, titled "Fused Fabric Collage" was under the Youth cluster. We set up shop in a sunny spot near the children's section of the library. Two ironing boards, a table with samples and a handout describing the process, and a big table with a pile of fabric scraps and scissors.

Participants chose a small fabric base then found a chair and a pair of scissors and went to work snipping up fabric scraps, peeling off paper to reveal the fusible webbing, and arranging their compositions. When a piece felt complete, it made the perilous trip to an ironing board where a little magic and heat fused all the scraps in place, making their artwork permanent.

We had about 30 people come through. It was great fun seeing the parents' involvement--we offered them the opportunity to make their own piece, and many who originally thought they would just help their children soon realized they really wanted a chance to make one too!

We had letters, hearts, houses and a pirate ship, and plenty of abstract images too. The time flew by. Before we knew it we were stuffing the now much smaller pile of scraps into bags and talking about coming back next year.

We had time to walk around and check out other workshops. What an exciting array! Hands on exhibits ranged from robots and electronics to soap making and a band playing homemade instruments. Suzie and I sat in on a story project being developed which will place bricks on India St (the oldest street in Portland) that each tell a story about people and history in Portland. It's called Portland Brick. Very cool.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

First Friday Art Walk

Members of Art Quilts Maine join Yarmouth's Calico Quilters in an exhibition of their work at First Friday Art Walk on FRIDAY MAY 1 at the Cathedral Church of St Luke on State Street in Portland. Doors open at 5:00, the exhibit closes at 8:00 pm. The juxtaposition of traditional and art quilts promises to be a conversation-starter--bring a friend! Some works available for purchase--checks or cash only, please. Hope to see you there!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Lesson Two

More classwork to share. This lesson was about quick fabric sketches from artwork--the samples given were a Matisse and Lillian May Miller. Each sketch took a couple of hours to create, although with the Mt Fuji I went back and spent another evening adding thread work. Today though, I must prepare for teaching class tomorrow--Free Motion at Sew Portland, and it's full!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Class with Marilyn Belford

Rectangle Abstracted
I am taking a class series called "Art for Quilters" with Marilyn Belford. You may recognize her portrait quilts or her mythology series. I have been a fan for a long time. When I heard from a friend that she was teaching an online class, I couldn't sign up fast enough. Lesson one started out with a still life and abstracting geometric forms. Lesson two is a discussion of composition. Returning to the basics of art is so valuable for a quilter--after all, we work with color, value and composition no matter what style of quilting we may be doing. Here are a couple of examples from the first lesson. I love being a student. Probably the most fun part of the class so far is the one-on-one interaction with someone I admire--the somewhat scary opportunity to share my experiments with Marilyn Belford and hear her feedback and critique!
Shapes and Arrows

Monday, March 2, 2015

Trunk Show at Calico

Calico Quilters, the Portland area chapter of Maine's Quilt Guild invited me to do a trunk show in January. Due to weather and other considerations, it was postponed and postponed, but finally happened at their meeting last Monday. The focus was on art quilting, which I never tire of discussing, especially with other quilters! In addition to my pieces, I had several quilts I was holding from other members of Art Quilts Maine, so I asked the other artists for permission and a write up to share about their work, which broadened the show. I was also extremely lucky to be putting a hanging sleeve on an antique quilt belonging to a good friend. Made in the late 1800's, the cheddar yellow and indigo quilt is in pristine condition. I just knew the quilters would be as thrilled as I to see that quilt up close, even if it didn't fit the theme of the evening! Here is a link to Calico's newsletter with several photos from the trunk show (scroll down to page 6)!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Perseverance Pays Off

I just had to give a shout out to another student in the Stacked Coins class. Charlena has taken a few classes with Linda and me before, and is quite a good piecer. She has had some major frustration with free motion quilting in the past, though. Neither she nor I could get her machine to behave. Thread kept breaking, no matter what we tried in class. It would run fine on a sample piece, then we would move to the stacked coin quilt and stitch for a few seconds when Bam! the thread would break. Same thing last class she took. We tried changing needles, re-threading. No luck.

Well, she went home and here we are, a few weeks later--Voila! look at that lovely quilt, free motion quilted all over the background. Just in time for Valentine's Day, too, with her themed fabric choices. Charlena says she bought a new free motion foot and some Aurifil 100% cotton thread and it seemed to work. I say, whatever combination of things made the magic happen, yippee! Time to get out some of those other tops that have been waiting and get stitching.

Love it when perseverance finally wins out over frustration. Thanks for sharing the photo and your triumph, Chalena!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Stacked Coins

Cindy's Stacked Coins baby quilt
Beginning quilter classes are such fun to teach! Linda and I just finished teaching a two-day class using the Stacked Coins pattern, which we modified from a Moda pattern that is available several places online. It is a great beginner pattern, as it starts with a charm pack and has no matching seams, thus reducing concern about accurately cut patches. We finally have the lesson plan tweaked so the quilts were very nearly complete at the end of class. Most students just had to finish quilting and add binding, and many had the binding cut and ready to go.

One of our students, Cindy, sent these photos of her completed baby quilt! Quilted with straight-line stitching and beautifully bound with the same fabric as her backing. Well done! We love seeing our students' work. Send more pictures!

Next up is a Free Motion Quilting class, on Saturday, February 21, 10:00 to 3:00. Lots of hands on practice there, learning to 'draw' with the sewing machine needle. I encourage students to bring in unfinished quilt tops so we can brainstorm various ways to quilt and complete them. Want to join the fun? Sign up at Sew Portland--in person at 306 Warren Ave in Portland, or by phone at 797-6700.