Why I Quilt

I love it. I have to do something everyday that gives me joy. Quilting (and sewing in general) does that for me. It brings a happiness that nothing else does. What a blessing to find that in my life and so early. I knew as a child I would sew the rest of my life.


It gives me peace. When I am quilting, I am completely at peace with myself and my surroundings. Time and trouble have almost no meaning when I am in the midst of fabric and a sewing machine. For me, quilting is better at curing the blues than professional therapy.

It makes me use my mind. Quilting involves a fair amount of math; using fractions, the metric system, division, geometry and angles. I must use my brain to keep measurements accurate. I also have to make squares, triangles, etc. match up. There are many skills I have to learn and new ways of doing things. There is always something new on the horizon. Quilting keeps me on my toes, alert and always aware. I think it helps keep me young.


It’s a way to be creative. Colors, shapes, sizes, contrast and harmony – all combine in a million different ways. How fun it is to explore the possibilities that quilting affords me. I can literally think of anything and try it out with fabric! It doesn’t get any better.


It keeps me organized. Keeping all the parts of a quilt in order can be a chore, but it does make me develop a system. The system allows the quilt to go together in the right sequence and it is different for each quilt. That way I’m able to stop and start without getting lost.


It allows me to be messy. When I’m quilting, it can look like a fabric bomb has gone off in my sewing room. And that’s okay! Allowing the fabric to speak and jump out can be a freeing experience. Try it – I think you will like it! And I don’t have to clean it up until I’m ready.

It gives me a sense of accomplishment. Making progress on a quilt is very invigorating. Every block done is a goal accomplished. And a finished quilt is a thrill beyond compare. All the thought, planning, work, ripping, re-sewing and love become a beautiful fabric hug.

It never ends. Even before one quilt is done, I’m looking forward to the next project. There is always a new energy and an eagerness to get to the next idea. Numerous thoughts concerning several quilts can be going on at the same time. Quilts follow quilts. They never end!

The community of other quilters. Sharing the love of quilting with other like-minded people just multiplies the joy. I have found quilters to be the most selfless, caring, inclusive, sharing folks on the planet. I can’t imagine quilting all alone. It is a gift that must be performed  with others. I must share. I must be taught. I must teach. I must know the happiness of a group quilting together.

Photographs for the book "Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting" by Sonja Hakala. (Photo by Geoff Hansen)

Photographs for the book “Teach Yourself Visually: Quilting” by Sonja Hakala.
(Photo by Geoff Hansen)

It is part of my legacy. I envision quilts I made being handed down to my family for generations. I have also made many quilts as gifts for family and friends. These quilts are part of me and show my love for those in my life. Like my laugh and my sense of humor, they will be remembered and talked about for many years to come.


The act of quilting itself sets a good example for the younger generations in my family. As the matriarch, I want to be seen as a productive and active elder. I believe quilting does that for me.

One Hundred Years To Make A Quilt

One hundred years ago my grandmother Irene started embroidering linens and doilies for her home. She made tablecloths with matching napkins, pillowcases, dresser scarves, hand towels and handkerchiefs.


She also began collecting special pieces that were decorated by others she knew. Some of the linens were probably to be used in a quilt or bedspread and some were treasured gifts from treasured people in her life. All were spectacular and beautiful.

Sixty years ago my mother Peggy inherited the wonderful collection of embroidered linens from my grandmother. She used a few of them in the house we lived in.


Over the years, she added a few pieces to the group. I remember a tablecloth with napkins for a card table and a liner for a bread basket. I know she made more but that’s all I remember.

Both my grandmother and mother were great sewers and made most of their clothes. My mother made many of my clothes as well as my two children’s when they were little. What they didn’t do very much was embroider, so everything they did embellish is just that much more precious.

The embroidery has become more than just a pretty attraction. It has become a symbol. It represents continuity – a connection over the years, the decades. It is a thread that binds my grandmother to mother to me. All the hours they spent are there. All the starts, mistakes, restarts and finishes are there. All the plans blossoming into beautifully decorated linens are there. There for all to see, appreciate and learn from.


Forty-three years ago I became the recipient of the grand collection, which by then had become fairly extensive. After a few years of my own collecting, I began to try to plan a good use for the expanding treasure trove of embellished pieces of linen and cotton.

Last year I designed a quilt using as many of the antique and vintage pieces as I could. The center is the middle of a tablecloth surrounded by four hand towels and corners of two dresser scarves.

Doily Quilt8

Around that are the borders of a tablecloth. The mosaic panels are made up of all sorts of linens and doilies overlapping all around the quilt.

Doily Quilt5 It is a glorious mixture of all the types f embroidery, crochet, tatting and crossstitch.

Doily Quilt6

The final border is made up of handkerchiefs of every color and design.

Doily Quilt3

While sewing every seam, I thought about mother and grandmother, their love of sewing and their contribution to the quilt. Their enthusiasm and love of the art were with me every step of the way. What a lovely way to share with the generations.

One hundred years of hand work, collecting and loving special pieces of cloth, three generations of women and one quilt to show all the care. What a grand result!

I couldn’t have done it without you two!


A Full House

It’s quilting time again and off to retreat I went! The retreat center was packed to the rafters with wonderful women who love to quilt as I do. Thirty-five ladies went on the retreat and thirty-five beds were available at the center. Like I said, packed to the rafters.

It’s not just the retreaters that come to the center, but all the equipment, supplies, projects, notions, clothes, and miscellaneous that comes with them. I mean to tell you, we were packed in there.

IMG_1032Sewing machines were practically touching each other, to say nothing about chairs colliding with one another. A person could hardly walk down an aisle without turning sideways to fit through. It’s a good thing we all love each other!

Day One and the quilts were already going up on the design walls.

IMG_1033This quilt appeared in about three different versions. Turn the blocks around and you have a whole new quilt.

IMG_1034What a sweetie!

IMG_1035A similar pattern but different colors. Very nice!

IMG_1037The first quilt turned in a different way. Amazing!

IMG_1038Love those primary colors!

IMG_1039These blocks were done by several people in the Bee and given to one special person. How lucky is she!

IMG_1040How did this one get done so fast? Most have done some work at home before the retreat.

IMG_1041Love the drama of this one. Contrast makes all the difference, doesn’t it?

IMG_1042This illusion quilt is beyond description. Playing with value and hue makes everything look three-dimensional. The background fabric has printed words. Look carefully and don’t miss a thing!

IMG_1043Done by same quilter as previous. Again there are no words!

IMG_1044This one reminds me of the front of an office building. Again the three dimensional look. Aren’t these quilts spectacular?

Day Two was equally great. More quilts on the design walls. More projects, more humming of machines, more talking and laughter. How could it be any better? But it was!

IMG_1045Simple but dramatic!

IMG_1046Very interesting! Each elk head was cut exactly the same. Amazing!

IMG_1047Some people made astounding progress on their quilt by making many many blocks.

IMG_1048Some people made less progress and made only one block. They were busy doing other things. . .talking, texting, messaging, talking, blogging, talking, visiting, talking, and talking.

P.S. This block was joined by many other blocks and became a full quilt by Day Three and a half.

IMG_1049How about this beauty?

IMG_1050Can’t take my eyes off these colors. Very striking!

IMG_1052Don’t you just love this quilt? So much to see!

IMG_1053Very interesting version of Log Cabin. Love the colors.

IMG_1055Now here is a real scrap user! Every block is different.

IMG_1056Don’t the windows make all the difference?

IMG_1057Who doesn’t love stars? The black background really makes it pop.

IMG_1059This is some wonderful fabric I found at retreat. I love the philosophy! The rules of life as revealed in fabric. Bee-utiful!

IMG_1060Now here is a commitment to making squares! Rock on!

Day Three – more of the same and some different. Quilts were being produced faster than I could keep up with. My camera was smoking! Thirty-five women and three days – I would expect no less.

IMG_1062Squares galore! Can you believe it?! And the Bargello effect is stunning!

IMG_1063More squares and some really interesting fabric.

IMG_1065Love the chains! Very nice effect.

IMG_1066I feel like I’m at the beach, don’t you?

IMG_1067I feel like I’m in Paris, don’t you?

IMG_1072Interesting use of color and tones.

IMG_1070Closeup of an interesting border to one of the quilts. I don’t believe you can have too much color in any one quilt, as evidenced by this one.

By the end of Day Three we were all starting to pack up for the trip home. So much was accomplished by so many. Not just the quilts, but the friendships, the relationships, the bonding we made in such a short time. When that many women eat together, sleep together, and work together, magic can happen. And it did! Wonderful, magical things happened at the full house!

Small Group, Big Results

Our Appliqué Group went on a four day retreat recently. There were only eleven of us that could go this time. We were a small but mighty group of ladies. I can’t wait to show you the great things we did in such a short time.

IMG_0929First of all there is this grand illusion. Don’t you love it?

IMG_0938This baby quilt is so sweet. I love the faces of the animals.

IMG_0941IMG_0945It just makes me smile and I’m sure it will do the same for the baby.

IMG_0948Here is a strange looking one. It is actually the beginning of a beautiful quilt built from the center out.

IMG_0952This is my French General quilt. I finally finished it after three years of intermittent work on it. What a relief!

IMG_0962IMG_0966Isn’t this one interesting? Very simple to make but looks so difficult.

IMG_0968Completely random but organized. I love it!

IMG_0970The contrast in fabric colors is very striking. It makes a simple quilt strong.

IMG_0973This quilt was made for a young man who will soon graduate from High School. I think he will love it.

IMG_0976How gorgeous is this one? Love the fabrics!

IMG_0980This beautiful little gem is all done by hand with wool. The embroidery is exquisite! Do you see Noah’s ark and all the animals two by two?

IMG_0981The fabrics are grand in this one. The fish were cut by hand and applied to the quilt. Stunning!

IMG_0982This magnificent quilt was put together with 1″ squares! Unbelievable!

IMG_0984Oops! Out of order! A closeup of the Noah’s ark.

IMG_0989 Isn’t the handwork wonderful?

Can you believe what eleven women can do in four days? Never underestimate a woman with a sewing machine!

I Remember When

Here is my newest creation, entitled “I Remember When.”


This quilt is made from doilies, linens and handkerchiefs collected from my grandmother, mother and aunt. It took me years to gather enough to finally make this quilt big enough              to cover a queen-size bed.


There are tablecloths, tea towels, doilies, and handkerchiefs all over this thing. Some were in good shape and some were barely salvageable. The torn and spotted ones were perfect for such a project, which required much cutting.


I remember many of these linens in their homes and being used. They bring back memories of good times, cozy gatherings, and sweet smells. They make the quilt that much more lovable and huggable.


It was so fun to touch each piece and imagine how it would fit in the quilt. Turning it this way and that way, until it was perfect. Each fabric finding its right place. It was as though the quilt already existed and I just had to see it in my mind. And it turned out just right!


This memory quilt holds a lot of history of the women of my family. History held in pieces of linen passed down from one generation to another, to be used and loved. I hope this quilt continues the tradition of passing on the story to the next generations.



Miss Muffet’s Tuffet

Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet

Eating her curds and whey,

When along came a spider 

That sat down beside her,

And frightened Miss Muffet away.

If not for this poem, I doubt that any of us would even have heard of the word tuffet, let alone know what it is. Think of a footstool big enough to sit on. And as far as curds and whey goes – it’s basically cottage cheese.

But back to the tuffet. I can imagine someone long ago sitting on one in front of a big fireplace with sewing in hand and feeling very cozy and comfy. I’m not sure who thought of the tuffet, but they are cute and handy. In fact, I decided I needed one so much, I made one.


This is my blue (of course, blue!) tuffet. It stands twelve inches high and eighteen inches in diameter. There are twenty-four different fabrics used and sixty-four stripes of fabric. Somehow it looks much smaller on the floor than it did on my sewing table and in my sewing machine!


The little feet still need to be painted, but I couldn’t wait to show you the almost finished product. They will be painted blue, of course. How silly of you to ask!


The tuffet now resides in the living room, with all the other blue things. It will make a nice stool or side table to put a tray on. I love it!


But between you and me, I would not make another one. One is enough!

Mea Culpa

That’s the name of my new quilt. Strange, you say? Not really, if you know the history of its origin. Each block is an exchange – meaning it was made by another person in exchange for me making a block for them.


At the time it seemed reasonable to ask someone to make one of these blocks for me. In fact, I asked nine people to make blocks for me! But it was a huge imposition, now that I look back on it. The blocks are very difficult to do and getting them all to look the same is even harder.


I don’t know what I was thinking! Well, I was thinking I would get this quilt done. But really, I was asking a lot of everyone who got one of my blocks to make. They are beautiful, but all I could say was “I’m sorry!”


So that’s how this quilt got the name “Mea Culpa”. I love the quilt and am very grateful to everyone who contributed to it. But all I heard was complaining and moaning from all the participants, so all I kept saying was “I’m so sorry!”

A Retreat Of Beginnings

Every October my quilting group has a retreat. We go to a special place, at a special time, for a special activity. Each time the retreat seems to take on a life of its own. This year, it seemed to have an aura of beginnings, of starts, of onsets. Sometimes people are finishing quilts or projects, binding, sewing on labels or putting on the finishing touches, but this time brought out new squares, not-seen-before projects, uncut fabrics and patterns to try out.  It was all very exciting and challenging.  New projects, new quilts, new ideas. What fun!

IMG_0890 This unfinished piece is a wall hanging made out of wool, in the Noah’s Ark theme.

IMG_0891Another closeup of the animals in wool.  What a great beginning!

IMG_0898This beautiful start of a quilt is made from handkerchiefs.  It will be spectacular when finished.

IMG_0897Aren’t these aprons bright and beautiful?  AND they are DONE!

IMG_0894This quilt was started just in time for Halloween.  What a cutie!

IMG_0895A closeup of one of the Halloween quilt squares.  What a hoot!

IMG_0896A witch to contend with!

IMG_0893This interesting piece is a pillow top made with a handkerchief and thread painting.

IMG_0892This adorable doll dress was the first of about six dresses made.  What a lucky girl and her doll will receive these for Christmas!

IMG_0905Doesn’t this quilt look like Argyle socks? I think it will be just as comfortable and cozy.

IMG_0904This almost done baby quilt is for a baby named Scout.  How perfect is that?

IMG_0903The shimmering cross made with all fabrics that have gold threads in them.  Gorgeous!

IMG_0902Won’t this one be beautiful when it is finished?  It’s certainly on its way!

IMG_0901This quilt is made of college colors and looks stunning.  I can hardly wait until it is all sewn together!

IMG_0900This will be one stunning Christmas quilt when completed.

IMG_0899How fabulous is this sampler!  The quilter worked all day attaching the piano keys border!

All of these projects were so inspirational.  Each one made me want to break out new fabric, new patterns, new thread, and to start new quilts.  The problem with all new beginnings is that they have to be finished eventually!

The Old New Old Quilt

I just finished making a quilt for my Aunt Thelma (Actually my cousin Thelma once removed, but who can say that every time?). She asked me to make it for her from blocks sewn by her mother Edith many years ago. Some of the blocks were made from dresses Aunt Thelma wore as a child and that was over 75 years ago. (I promised I wouldn’t give Aunt Thelma’s exact age!) The age and the memories are part of the wonderful oldness of the quilt.


The newness is found in the construction, the backing (which only looks old), the muslin used for the sashing and the gingham border. All these were used, of course, to add to the old look of the whole quilt. Are you confused yet?

I couldn’t find the pattern name listed anywhere. It’s possible Miss Edith made it up herself or it was a local favorite. I did find a similar pattern called Rolling Stone, which certainly seems to fit. It is however, a very old pattern, which I just adore.


The quilting stitch is also an old familiar style called Feathering. It gives the quilt a charm and age that is so appropriate.

The quilt is going with me to California in May to be given to Aunt Thelma. She will be so surprised! She has no idea it is done and ready to be loved and adored, just like her dresses were so many years ago.

A Heavenly Retreat

I just returned from heaven! Well, not exactly. It was actually a quilt retreat, but it sure felt like heaven.

Twenty women gathered for four days to sew, talk, laugh, share and produce quilts. Does it get any better than that? I think not!


This is what heaven surely looks like. Maybe not quite so cluttered, but certainly as colorful, as friendly, as relaxed, as exciting and as inspiring. I can hardly think of a place I’d rather be than in a room like this, filled with people like these.

IMG_0856Quilters generally are the most friendly, giving people. They will share whatever they have, whether it be knowledge, experience, fabric, notions, space, tips. Whatever you need, if they have it, it’s yours.

And creativity? Oh my goodness! A quilt retreat is a wondrous overdose of creative thought, expression and production. Just look at these examples from the design walls.

IMG_0835Aren’t the colors in this quilt spectacular?

IMG_0837Already getting the Christmas spirit. What a cutie!

IMG_0838This quilt still has borders to be put on, but it is coming along nicely.

IMG_0840A modern version of Log Cabin.

IMG_0842What a beautiful blending of shades and colors.

IMG_0844A close up view of previous quilt to show the details of the blending. Isn’t it magnificent?

IMG_0845Isn’t it amazing how this quilt appears to curve?

IMG_0846How to make a curve in a quilt with straight lines.

IMG_0847Doesn’t this look like a garden of flowers?

IMG_0852A most superb star! With the sharpest points!

IMG_0853The center of the star. Amazing!

IMG_0857This quilt tells it’s own story of living in New York, Central Park, bicycle paths, a building called The Lyric, The Empire State Building, The Statue of Liberty and . . . . .

IMG_0859of course, quilting.

So I’m back from heaven with quilts done, quilts started, quilts worked on, quilts planned. I laughed harder than I’d laughed in a long while, ate more than I should have, slept less than normal, sewed til it hurt and had the most wonderful, most productive, most exhausting time. I wish I was back there now.