Quilters’ Retreat

A few days ago, I crashed a party.  We were on a backroads jaunt and I remembered that some of my friends were attending a quilting retreat at a nearby wildlife refuge.  I asked Jim to make a stop and let me say Hello.  He asked, “Can you just pop in?  Were you invited? “  I assured him, “It will be fine.  They won’t mind.  They will all be happy to show me their projects.”

And, they were.  They were busy.  They were happy.  And they did not mind my intrusion.

There is a reason many quilters like the bee motif.  Quilters and bees buzz about with a purpose in mind and get things done!

I was greeted with smiles and hugs from many friends, and made the acquaintance of new quilters as well.  Sheila and Barbara and Jean and Donna were the first to see me and report on the fun.  I didn’t get photos of everyone’s work, but everyone was busy and productive.
Angie was piecing some animals.  Mary was working with baskets.  Jean had stars on her design wall.  She had discovered that her alternate blocks were cut from directional fabric, unnoticed until they were put on the wall.  She had lots of advisors to help her decide how to deal with this dilemma.

Joyce had two big appliqué projects: a Baltimore Album that just needs a few details and a border attached, and a fabulous Kim McLean pattern all with big pieces of Kaffe fabrics.  Joyce is one of our guild’s charter members and she still produces more quilts than several of the rest of us combined!  She was sitting beside Hilda, her BFF for more than FIFTY years.  They have worked on many projects and been to many retreats and heard many stories in that time, don’t you know?

Dewey was there with his longarm machine and an eight-foot table.  He had already quilted two quilts at the retreat for other participants and was doodling on his machine while he waited for others to get backs prepared for him to quilt their tops.

Here is Donna working on a One-Block Wonder.  And Dewey had just finished the quilting on her Friendship Garden  before the retreat.  Now she can add the binding and label and it’s done!

Mary had run to the store, but her work-in-progress is here.  Mary is the organizer of this event.  Someone has to take charge and she does it well!  She reserves the space, organizes the guest list, plans the food, and assures that everyone has fun.  And she is successful, because these people plan their calendars around Mary’s retreat dates.  Because of her, the sisterhood thrives.

Candace is a local designer and teacher with her own line of patterns.  Here she is working on a new pattern design.  And there were some of her finished products with chickens made from her hand-woven fabrics.  Wow!

Lynn was putting the finishing touches on a garden scene, while Eleanor was working on a batik project complete with labels to insure that every block ended up in exactly the right place.

Getting away from home, focusing on a project or two, socializing while you work, learning from each other, what a blast!  I loved visiting this beehive.

Hartwell Commons

Hartwell CommonsKits to make quilts are wonderful.  They are a great way to make a quilt if you don’t have a large fabric stash, if you aren’t comfortable selecting fabrics, or if you just want to jump right in with a ready supply of coordinated fabrics in the right colors.  A good friend advises that they are great for travel or retreat projects, because they are packaged ready to sew on the go.

Hartwell Commons was made from a kit.  I ordered the block-of-the-month kit early in my quilting career, I suppose it was in 2002 or so.  When the first package arrived, the schoolhouse block, I opened it ready to jump right in.

Instructions were given for two techniques; paper foundation piecing, and appliqué.  I did not know either one.  So I bundled it all back up and put it back in its big ziploc bag.  It waited month by month as its companions arrived in the mail and the charges were added to my credit card bill.  I paid the bill knowing that maybe someday I would have the skills to make the quilt.

My friend’s advice came to light a couple of years down the road when we were preparing for a girls’ getaway to a friends’ lake house.  I was lamenting that I didn’t know what project to take, and Dale said, “do you have a kit?”

Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I did.  I grabbed the first couple of month’s packages, some substitute fabrics (I had already realized that using someone else’s idea of fabric combinations was not my way of working) and off we went to Lake Hartwell.

Hartwell Commons churchBy then, I had learned both techniques of paper foundation piecing and needleturn appliqué.  I love to do handwork and don’t like to travel with my sewing machine, so appliqué was the approach I used.

Once started, I quickly finished all the houses, but uh-oh, I didn’t know all the embroidery stitches and had never worked with silk ribbon.  So the blocks sat again waiting.  The next retreat with the same group of gals to the same place meant the embellishment phase could begin.

The embroidery was done, blocks were assembled by machine, and I was ready to do the quilting.  I referred to Leah Day’s 365 Free Motion Quilting Designs website for ideas and video instructions on filler designs for the background.  All the varied filler designs are still favorites of mine, and I often run downstairs to look at this quilt on the wall when I need ideas on another project.

Hartwell Commons labelQuilt details:  Finished size is 85” x 88”.  The pattern is called The Quilted Village by the City Stitcher. Cotton fabrics, silk thread embroidery.  Completed 2010.  Cotton batting. Quilting thread DMC machine embroidery thread, two-ply, 50 weight cotton.  Free motion quilted on home machine.  Since there are lots of goat farms around Lake Hartwell, I made the label in the shape of a goat.

Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden

Ollie Jane's Flower Garden
Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden

I recently described this work as “my first major quilt.”  It was completed in 2007, so it doesn’t belong in the catalog of my latest work, but the elements I included in it still appear in many more recent designs.

The quilt was made over a period of six years.  I completed other quilts during that time, but this was an ongoing project.  One of the first piecing techniques that intrigued me was English paper piecing.  I basted the 1” hexagons on freezer paper and had a portable project.  Since I was still working full time, I stitched while riding in the car and on visits with my mother in her assisted living facility, on the porch with her at her nursing home, and in hospital waiting rooms when my sister was ill.

As I was learning more about the world of quilting, I began to think of ways to combine these hexagons with other quilting techniques.  Once I learned needleturn appliqué, I wanted to add some curves to my pieced elements.  I assembled ten of the Grandmother’s Flower Garden units, appliquéd them to a background, and planned to add a vine with leaves in the border.

detail from Ollie Jane's Flower Garden
detail from Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden

I actually made another small quilt to explore the technique of the two-colored border with the vine separating them.  That worked, so I interpreted it large scale.

I wanted a bit more interest in the center of the quilt (well, not really the center…I was already embracing the idea of asymmetrical balance), so I made a bouquet of flowers using some elements of flowers from Barb Adams and Alma Allen’s Quilting in the Garden (a quilt I completed sometime in this process).

detail from Ollie Jane's Flower Garden
detail from Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden

I made my first bow with trapunto here.  I loved the bow.  I still like bows.  Especially plaid bows.  They reveal the folds created when a ribbon is rumpled to tie a knot.

Certainly not the least challenging was the quilting.  Then a beginner, I quilted the hexagons with a continuous curve motif, echoed around the appliqué, used my version of one of Diane Gaudynski’s filler designs in the inner border, and stitched a double grid in the outer border.  The only element of the quilting that was marked was half of the straight lines (they are 1” apart) and then quilted 1/4” away from that using the edge of the free motion foot.  Then, as now, the straight line quilting is the most challenging motif in free motion quilting, but I do still love the effect.

When it was time to give this quilt a title, I enlisted my husband’s input.  He came up with Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden to honor the traditional blocks of hexagons and give tribute to my quilting grandmother, Ollie Jane Hasty.

This quilt has had quite a career appearing in quilt shows and going to lectures with me.  She has earned some ribbons and accolades, but I haven’t retired her.  She hangs in the stairwell of our home, as close to the center of our lives as she can be.

The quilt used all cotton fabrics, some reproduction feed sacks.  Batting is Dream Cotton request.  Quilting thread is DMC machine embroidery cotton 50 weight / 2ply.  Finished dimensions are 58” x 68”.