Retreat Revisited

Ah quilt retreat! There is nothing like it. Four days of sewing, chatting, sharing, laughing, eating and maybe some sleeping. There is lots of humming of machines, questions like “Does this border go with this fabric?”, answers of “I prefer the blue!”, whirring of rotary cutters and even some quiet times of hand sewing. One person can be absorbed in reading directions, two people can be sharing a new technique, three people can be giving an opinion on placement of blocks for a quilt and any number of people an be taking a class on a brilliant idea or some new sewing notion.

A retreat is many things and can be anything to one person. Maybe it’s a chance to finish that project . . . . finally. Maybe it’s a chance to start a new project . . . . finally. And maybe it’s just time, time to sew and sew and sew on anything and everything you have. It’s the freedom to do whatever you want.

Ah quilt retreat! Looking forward to it is a joy. Experiencing it is true heaven. Even the memories of it are a blessing. Here are a few of mine.

This is just one block for a quilt done in appliqué. Can you imagine how spectacular that quilt will be?

This quilt looks like it was woven. And it is made out of flannel. What a coy hug it will give on cold nights.

A beautiful Christmas tree already for the holiday.

A beautiful quilt done in squares. Very modern looking.

Is this too cute? I love the baby penguin!

A wonderful red, white and blue star quilt. Love those stars!

This quilt is big, beautiful and not even done yet. There will be more poinsettias when completed. How perfect will that be?

A quilt of foxes is being worked on here. How adorable!

A little Christmas village just got finished here in this cute quilt.

Several of us took lessons on making stars the Inklingo way. Here are our results.

This spectacular one is made from a zillion little pieces of fabric applied to the background. Isn’t it wonderful?

 

I love the brightness of this quilt. Must be all those primary colors.

This is going to be a great quilt when it is done. Don’t you agree?

Another very interesting quilt. The blocks are going in all directions. Love the clocks!

This quilt is very soft looking. I bet it is very comforting too.

Here is a special quilt of several blocks of the Lady of Guadalupe. It was made for a special friend. Lucky lady!

This is not exactly a quilt but still a real cutie. It is a wool mat for a platter. It is all done by hand with much embellishment.

A complicated quilt that is very lovely to behold. Can’t wait till this one is done.

This one looks very hard but actually it is the fabric that is printed to look like 36 square blocks. Interesting, right?

This is all I can show you of the marvelous retreat I went to. The best parts are the  intangibles. They are the relationships we all have and the history of many retreats and gatherings over the years. They are the hours spent in each others’ company through good times and bad. They are the words spoken between us over coffee, tea and wine, sharing meals, ideas and feelings.

All these things we carry in our hearts until the next time we meet. Be it tomorrow or next year. Nothing is lost or forgotten. Retreat is forever!

 

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A Quilt Show – Behind The Scenes

Many of us have been to a quilt show. And many of us have seen the quilts all nicely hung and organized in place. We have marveled at the beauty of the show, shopped at all the vendors and learned much at the demonstrations.

But how does all this quilt show thing happen? Do elves come in the night and perform magic? Does a wizard open a trunk and a quilt show pops out? Do we order one from Amazon and two days later it shows up neatly wrapped in a box? Not exactly.

First of all it takes at least a year of planning – sometimes more. That means monthly (or more often) meetings of a committee. Lots of emailing back and forth. Phone calls, messages, printouts, samples, first, second and final drafts, votes, opinions, disagreements and agreements – all go into making a quilt show.

Finally the week of the show comes and all involved are ready and on alert. Three days before the show even starts, all the quilts that are going to be in the show are delivered to the site. In four hours, as many as 350 or more quilts can be accepted, inspected, labeled and processed. All this is done alphabetically at check-in stations.

Two days before the quilt show the poles and drapes are up in place and the hanging of the quilts begins. The quilts are hung by sleeves on the back of each quilt over a rod. Each is numbered and labeled according to the category which it qualifies. All 350 or more quilts are hung and made to look as beautiful as possible in one day.

The next day begins the judging. Three different judges with their assigned scribes spend the entire day inspecting, analyzing and recording their assessment of each quilt.The written critique is returned with the quilt  to the owner at the end of the show.

Then the winning ribbons are hung on the most outstanding quilts, honoring the makers. The most wonderful of all, the “Best of Show” is moved to a special place of honor.

During all this time, tables have been set up, signs have been placed, registration packets have been stuffed, vendors have set up their booths, banners have been hung, PA systems tested, concession stands filled, floors laid, lights hung, tickets counted and people have scurried from one job to another. All is now ready for tomorrow.

Tomorrow the quilt show opens. The doors will be unlocked. Quilt lovers and makers will stream in. There is nothing more to be done.

Nothing more but keep the show running smoothly!

 

What You Can Do With A Bag Of Fabric

So a group of say about 28 women get together for four days. They each have a bag or two or three of fabric. What do you think can happen with that fabric in four days of sewing? Well it was pure magic, my Sweeties! Pure magic!

Look and see what the results are. And feel free to drool!

Is this cutest guy you ever saw? And all made out of little pieces of fabric. Can you see the squirrel and the rabbits?

This is his not so little playmate. Isn’t she a beauty? Again, all done with little bits of fabric that were fussy cut.

This one was put together, cut apart and put back together. Now how clever is that? Spectacular!

This medieval looking gem has wonderful thread work in every block. It is too beautiful for words! When it is finally all together, it will be a stunner!

Here is a really lovely Quilt of Valor. It is meant for a specific veteran and is truly personal. A lot of love is going into this quilt.

These two lovelies are coasters and couldn’t be nicer.

These pieced butterflies are going to be wonderful in the final quilt, whatever it is. Of course, I especially love the the blue one!

Here is some hand embroidery beyond compare! Just sit and enjoy!

More embroidery. Drool if you must!

Love the colors in this beauty!

How nice is this? Won’t it be great in a camper or a lodge?

Now this is a fantastic quandary. Not sure what it will be, but it is divine.

What a cutie patootie is this! I want one!

There is nothing like a good old fashioned bowtie quilt. Brings back memories, doesn’t it?

What a sight! Can you believe this? The work and the precision!

Another version of a bowtie quilt. X’s and O’s.

Doesn’t everyone want one of these? I sure do!

Oh my goodness! A baby quilt that practically brings tears to your eyes.

How lovely is this? Love the scrappy border!

More butterflies! But this time in the border. How unusual!

Oh how I love a blue and white quilt! And those fabrics, yum!

One version of a good old Log Cabin. Wonderful!

And so ended our four day quilt retreat. The quilts are the only part I can show you. I can’t show you how much we laughed or how much we talked or how much we cared about each other. I can’t show you the hugging, the touching, the sharing that went on.

The fabric is what draws us together, but the fellowship is what keeps us together. Quilting is the purpose but caring is the glue. A bag of fabric may be the reason we gather but true love is why we stay.

Two Weeks, Two Retreats

I have just returned from two quilt retreats in as many weeks. Some folks told me that much intense quilting would probably kill me. But it didn’t.

In fact, it was exhilarating! It was inspiring! It was certainly a whole lot of fun! OK, it was a bit tiring. But I would do it again in a heart beat.

At a quilt retreat you join like-minded friends i.e. other quilters for a few days of sewing, laughing, sharing, learning and maybe a practical joke here and there.

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At the first retreat, I and about 25 other women spent four days in a special center built for just such occasions. We had our rooms and food provided – what a luxury! All we had to do was plug in our machines and begin sewing.

And sew we did. Quilts began showing up on the design walls immediately and didn’t stop until we were forced to leave four days later.

The five newbies were a bit overwhelmed by the sounds and the sights of the big room. But the sounds of the workroom were so familiar to those of us who had been before. The hum of machines, the chatter of conversations here and there, the ring of laughter floating over all, the chime of an “AHA!” as someone finally figured out a difficult problem.

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And what looked like mass confusion was really busy organization at work. Quilts were being planned, resized, sewn, ripped, resewn, quilted and bound. Advice was being given and received, knowledge shared, tips and tricks passed from one generation to the next.

All this was happening while relationships were being formed and strengthened. Actually, isn’t that what it’s really all about?

So, after four days, I came home, unpacked, washed my clothes, repacked and headed off to my second retreat. This time it was at a hotel and resort center.

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I roomed with a dear friend whom I have known since sixth grade. We joined 85 men and women for another four days of quilting heaven.

Yes, I said men! We have men in this group that quilt and they are wonderful. That is one of the great things about the art of quilting, it is very inclusive.

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So how do 85 people quilt together? Well, first they take over the entire Ballroom with tables, sewing machines, irons, ironing boards and design boards. It was a tight fit, but we  made it.

We nearly drowned in fabric, scraps and thread. But thanks to the hotel staff that vacuumed every night, we kept our heads above water.

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I have never seen such a flurry of activity anywhere in my life. It looked like mayhem, but was controlled work, in actuality. Again the quilts began to appear almost immediately.

The creativity and beauty I saw was amazing. It just kept coming, from every corner of the room. From young and old (Our oldest quilter is 89!). From skilled to newbie alike, the results were wonderful, spectacular.

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Now I’m home again with my two finished quilt tops, one quilt bound and one quilt started. I got a lot accomplished, renewed friendships, met some new friends, ate very well, laughed until it hurt, learned some new tips and shared some others.

In other words, I had a perfect two weeks. The hardest part now is getting used to cooking again. Ugh!!!

Dresses For Christmas

What could be better than a new dress for Christmas? Say a dress made of white Batiste with cranberry trim and maybe some smocking? Maybe it would have a beautiful little green ribbon running through the threads of the smocking and maybe the tie would be cranberry too?

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Would that dress be the prettiest thing you ever saw? Would a granddaughter of eight years old think it was the best dress ever made for her?

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Would Christmas be just that much better wearing a new dress made just for you? Would you feel like a princess in a crisp white dress ironed just so and stitched with all the love possible?

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Would the pictures taken of a dark haired girl in the new white dress be all the more precious because her grandmother made the dress just for her? Would the dark haired girl feel the same because she knew the dress was meant for no one else but her?

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What could be better than a new dress for Christmas? How about two new dresses for Christmas? How about a dark haired granddaughter and a fair haired great-granddaughter in matching dresses? How about Christmas memories that will last a lifetime for two?

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Is that not that the best picture for Christmas? Two precious girls, in two precious dresses, at the same time? Am I the luckiest Granny ever?

To Houston And Back Again

What would make 48 women get up in the middle of the night, drive to a deserted mall, then get on a bus and ride five hours to their final location? And do all that with joy and excitement in their hearts? Only one thing I can think of – The Houston Quilt Show!

And so it was. We 48 with bags, backpacks and credit cards in hand, made our annual trek to the quilters’ version of Mecca. The one place that calls to beginner and master alike, to traditionalist and modernist as well, to anyone who has ever looked longingly at fabric or wanted to make something wonderful from a scrap of woven anything – that place. We just call it “Houston.”

Houston has quilts to view of every kind, shape, color and era. One of the exhibits this year was “Dear Jane” quilts. They are near and dear to my heart. Well, Houston did not disappoint! Oh my, oh my!

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Even some of the backs are absolutely exquisite!

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Here’s a Dear Jane that forms a secondary heart design on the front of the quilt.

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Some are red and white, some are blue and white, some are black and white, and some are multi colored. It is a personal choice.

A person could spend days just viewing the lovely quilts hanging everywhere – the Christmas quilts, the modern quilts, the Millefiori, the dresses (yes, I said dresses!), the 20 foot crocodile and on and on.

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This is Best of Show which looks like a photograph. Here is the artist in front of her quilt.

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This quilt looks like photo up close and the shelves look like real wood. It is a masterpiece  of quilting.

miniatures

The miniatures were especially appealing to me. And I do mean small – these cuties were about four inches long and belonged in a dollhouse. I’m pretty sure they were made by elves.

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There were even quilts made out of linens and doilies and then quilted and beaded. They were exquisite beyond words.

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Entire quilts can even be done with thread alone as in this one. Beyond description really.

That night we had dinner at the Aquarium. How special is that? Yes, we had seafood for dinner and ate it in front of their cousins in the tanks, but it was so goooood!

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Anyway, the 350 pound Grouper didn’t seem to mind too much. The atmosphere was wonderful and the Pomegranate Kiss Martini didn’t hurt either. We had a grand time making friends and learning about the Aquarium.

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After a good night’s sleep, it was back to the show for more quilt Nirvana. Once we had seen all the quilts, it was off to the vendors’ section. Anything you could ever need, want or desire for quilting was there. And all the new things I didn’t know I needed!

What lovely fabrics and wools! Notions by the armload! Patterns to die for! There were shoes, clothes, jewelry, baskets, lights, irons. I got my rings polished. My friend even bought a sewing machine! An entire machine with all the extras, warranty, extra feet, carrying case, etc., etc. and had it all shipped home. What a great place is this Houston!!!

I bought a tin tray and some wool embroidery to fit on the top. I didn’t even know I needed it until I saw it! I was a very happy camper!

Finally the day was over and we tired, but very pleased 48 piled back into the bus with booty in hand. Bundles of fat quarters, quilt kits, rulers and stacks of wool were carefully placed in the overhead compartments. Patterns and books were kept to be read on the ride home.

In the dark of the night, we all looked at the pictures we had taken of the beauty we had seen. Soft conversations were held up and down the rows of seats, as we shared the sights and feelings of the day.

We talked, we laughed, we shared, we laughed some more, all in the darkness of a small bus. We tipped the driver. We gave a gift to the trip planner, coincidentally named Happy.

We knew the trip was coming to an end. Houston was now behind us and reality was again setting in. Our loved ones were waiting at the deserted mall to once again drive us home, where it all began.

But something was different. We still had all our goodies, our bags, our souvenirs, our new projects, and our pictures to take with us. We would remember. We had been to Houston!

Tea Dyed Quilt

I recently made a small doll quilt with some challenge fabric from the Jane Austen Group I belong to. It turned out very cute and colorful. But it seemed a bit too bright for me. I wanted it to look a little bit older and maybe a bit more used. The Log Cabin pattern kind of calls for that look, I think. So what to do?

doll-quilt

I had already made the quilt, so dying the fabric pieces was out. Maybe I could tea dye the whole quilt! Why not!

I got a pot big enough to fit the whole quilt into and filled it with water almost to the top, leaving room for the quilt. Brought the water to a boil and added my tea bags. As it happened, I only had one bag of regular tea. The rest of the bags were herbal tea. Wasn’t sure if that would work, but what the heck.

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Turned off the heat and left the 7 bags of tea to steep for about five minutes. While the tea was steeping, I soaked the quilt in cool water in the sink and wrung out the excess. After the five minutes, I added it to the tea mixture in the pot and let it soak for 30 minutes.

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I removed the tea bags when I put the quilt in. One source I read said to leave the bags in if you want a more mottled look.

Then I took the quilt back to the sink for another cool water bath to rinse out all the extra tea water. Finally I laid it on a soft towel to dry. That took about a day.

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The little quilt now looks just as I pictured it – a little toned down, a little old and a little used. I don’t think it could look any better!

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