Category Archives: Quilts


Walking through the Jordaan

After last night’s little contretemps, and because we had no appointment times to worry about, we slept late and took our time getting started. From Centraal Station we walked in a leisurely way down to Dam Square, filled with tourists like us. We slipped past the Juliana exhibit and found our way to, of all things, a quilt shop! In fact, two of them!

On our last trip I took home several fat quarters from Den Haan & Wagenmakers, so of course I wanted to return so that I could collect more unused fabric more of these delicious fabrics and make them into a quilt – eventually. Imagine my delight to discover that well-known Dutch quilter Petra Prins has a shop that adjoins Den Haan! Since I have no room in my suitcase, I brought only a few fat quarters back with me, but I enjoyed chatting with the staff (who, like everyone else in Amsterdam, with only minor exceptions, spoke English). The place was bustling with a couple of bees that were working on applique and other handwork, and the mood was entirely warm and friendly.

Very traditional quilts, but with bright colors and playful designs. Yum!

Our main focus was a walk through the Jordaan district, following Rick Steves’s directions. We enjoyed the flower shops like this one,

this display of many people with a pearl earring,

this elegantly quirky shop

and this historic house on the Moolsteeg, dated 1644, one of the oldest in Amsterdam.

Hard to tell in this photo, but the house leans just a bit out to the street so that when you attach a pulley to the hook above, you can hoist your cargo safely up through an upper-story window. Once you notice the hooks, you see them everywhere!

It was past time for lunch and just beginning to rain, and we identified a nearby coffee shop, but it was so crowded that we didn’t think we could find a seat.

Somehow the nice young waiter squeezed out two chairs and a tiny table for us. It’s a Greek place, so we had spanakopita with feta and spinach (me) and with ham and cheese (AO).

The place was full of young folk, a couple guys playing backgammon, etc. But as the rain began to relent, they gradually melted away, and so did we.

From here we headed to the Noordemarkt, which was allegedly right down the Prinsengracht but in actuality not that easy to find. But we got there eventually, scoping out the fresh-cut forsythia, fresh shellfish, sausages, and more.

The advertised textiles and clothing were not so enticing, so we found some apple pie to bring home for dessert and otherwise enjoyed the doorways and steps of the neighborhood.

Although these steps would be a bit daunting if you had to scurry up and down them every day!

Home to pick up our laundry (thank you, Sebastian, for recommending this local service) and find dinner for tonight. We went back to the Lunch Place for takeout, which is really all we want to do if it’s not our local dive. Sadly, tomorrow is our last day, but we will take in a few more museums before we leave.



Thursday was a shopping marathon!!! Our first stop was Ridhi Sidhi Textiles in Jaipur, which was absolutely amazing. Yes, an unpreposessing exterior, but wow!  This is the main retail shop, where we all fell madly in love with the kantha quilts.  You can see them stored on the shelves, with the overflow spilling onto the floor..
I bought five of them for presents, including one made of silks. There were several more rooms, filled with pajama sets, shirts, clothes of all kinds, and more fabric.

Then we moved on to the warehouse, where one room was just piled with quilts, wall hangings, clothes and who knows what all. We pawed through the piles looking for gold and in some cases found some.  I came away with this old (how old?) quilted piece. 

A bit the worse for wear, and I don’t dare wash and block it, but I love these liberated stars.

In the main area were bolts and bolts and bolts of cloth. Wow! They use this electric cutter to slice through zillions of layers of fabric. (Sorry for the dizzying ending!)  Again, I bought some yardage, of course.

Then on to the final warehouse/shop/business, where we saw the men doing block printing and tried our hands at it, too.  Look at all those intricately carved blocks on the shelf behind him!

We also tried on lots of clothes (none of which worked for me but others struck gold), and bought more. Unbelievable! We ran out of time so we will return later to pay up.

After this, we were booked for tea at the Sujan Raj Mahal Palace, an 18th century building which has been converted into a boutique hotel for the rich. Tea was in a room known as ‘51 Shades of Pink’  and served by turbaned waiters. Lovely little cakes and sandwiches, and, of course, tea. 

We walked through an elegant Anglo-Indian drawing room on our way to tea.  Here are the current owners:

A vintage American car was parked under the canopy outside. Very fun.

All in all, a good day, and here’s the group picture outside Ridhi Sidhi to prove it!

The show

Wow, so much to see that it was overwhelming.  I had to intersperse looking at quilts with visiting vendors and attending demonstrations.  Here’s some of what I saw.

Political quilts by Thomas Knauer, Chawne Kimber and Colleen Molen.  Notice how each one inserts text in a different way.

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Churn Dash quilts, an old favorite reinvented.  The top two are traditional, the bottom four are all taken from the Charity Challenge  exhibit.

The Modern Traditionalism category:  the top one is by Virginia’s own Mary Kerr.  I loved the detail of the old-fashioned print used in just a few triangles in the second quilt. The last one (salmon-colored) was upcycled from thrift store shirts.

salmonThese next few caught my eye because of playfulness or use of color.  The “lobstah” quilt is by Shelley Brooks, one of our founding members before she moved away.  Well done!

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Minimalism along with spectacular quilting:


My two favorites were both low volume.  This is “I Know the Stars are There Beyond the Clouds 2” by Heidi Parkes.  It was huge, beautiful, detailed, and it gor my vote for Best in Show (though it didn’t win).


Here’s a closeup of the hand quilting and her use of red thread which is almost invisible until you look closely.heidi-detail

My other favorite is this one, which won first place in the Quilting category:  Ode de Yoshiko by Marilyn Farquahar.ode

and a closeup: ode-detail

Wow, so much inspiration!

Quiltcon challenge quilts

In between classes, and all day on Saturday, I wandered through the exhibits.  So much caught my eye, but I promise you that this is not nearly a majority of the quilts on display.  First up, a challenge taken up by a number of modern quilt guilds.  “This year’s challenge requires participants to work collaboratively to create completed quilts using a predetermined color palette while crafting a design that plays with scale.”  As you can see, the palette leaned heavily towards blues.  The playing with scale was particularly fun to see.

I’ve always been intrigued with this “Comb” effect, sorry I didn’t record which guild made it.  Nice quilting, too.


The Lancaster guild played with the classic Amish bars quilts found locally and created this.  Again, the quilting is striking.  modern-bars

A couple entries played with the word “scale.”  This one is entitled “I thought you said scales!”


That finny fish at the bottom intrigued me, and I think I can see how she did it.  Lots of pleats and carefully placed stitching.  scales-detail

Finally, quilt playing with flying geese.  This is called Migration.migration

Love the flying geese in the left-hand yellow section.

QuiltCon 2017!

The modern quilt movement has  been on the scene now for at least five eight years, and it’s going strong.  The annual conference/show, QuiltCon, has been a smashing success, and members are alerted that if they want to register, they need to have their hands poised over the keyboard the moment registration opens.  Yes, it’s like getting concert tickets.

I was obsessed enough to do just that last June and ended up registered for three classes at QuiltCon to be held in February in Savannah.  I was a bit relieved that one class was eventually cancelled, because it gave me a full day to explore the exhibits and vendors.

Jennifer and I rented a house in Savannah on the edge of the historic district.  Crape Myrtle was perfect for us;   two bedrooms, two and a half baths, kitchen, porch, high ceilings, on a quiet side street.   crape-myrtle

We started off Thursday morning with an architectural walking tour, which I can highly recommend.  The tour guide, a young architect, seemed to know everything possible about the history of Savannah as well as the provenance of the buildings we saw.  I realized afterwards that “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which I was reading on this trip, never did come up, but some of the history he told us helped me to set the scene. Note to self:  find out more about  James Oglethorpe, colonizer of Georgia and an Enlightenment philanthropist who founded Savannah as a utopian community.


Then it was off to the show, which we got to by walking down to the riverfront and taking a ferry across the Savannah River, a trip of about five minutes.  Savannah River Waterfront

You get a nice view of the riverfront from the ferry.

My first class was “Sew All the Curves” with Jen Carlton Bailly, aka BettyCrockerAss.  She is known for her curvaceous quilts, one of which I spotted in the exhibits.  This is her “You and Me” quilt, created with what she calls “chubby squircles.”  curves-quiltThis was entered in the Piecing category.  Here’s a closeup that lets you see how she constructed it with a combination of curved and square blocks. curves-closeupAnd yes, we learned how to do this!  I bought her templates for the larger circles and made an imperfect set, but I think I can do better.  The key is glue, people.  She was a very engaging instructor and I enjoyed her class and her quilts.  Here’s a slideshow of a few she shared with us in class.

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The next day was a class with Alison Glass, a designer whose fabrics I love.  You can see from her shop that she loves saturated colors.  You can also see from this photo, taken from her site, that she has a strong sense of design.  Just yum.sunprint-2017-swatches-web Her class was about translating a photograph into a quilt, and I wish I had taken pictures  of her examples.  Starting with a fairly simple photo of her daughter standing against a plain gray wall, she made three different versions in fabric, the first fairly realistic and the succeeding ones increasingly abstract.  She encouraged us to divide our photos into blocks or strips and work on one at a time.  She came around to critique and offered insightful suggestions.   I was so absorbed in the class that I didn’t even visit the mini-shop she set up in the back and wish I had picked up some of her gorgeous fabrics on the spot.

So here is my original photo, taken in the M’dina in Gozo last fall.  mdina

She encouraged me to straighten the bottom edge to give a the viewer a better way to see the curving street.  She also emphasized working in vertical strips so that I could piece in the windows.  Boy, did I struggle with this, but it was totally engaging.  The result so far is below, but I have since decided that I want to play with constructing the buildings out of pieced fabric strips to add more interest.  As it stands, I find the batik too massive.  The hardest part was getting the street to angle correctly, but I think I’ve got it.mdina-block

In process, not finished!  More to come.

Why we went to Kansas City

Johannes_Vermeer_-_The_Astronomer_-_WGA24685Since Alison plans to see every Vermeer in the world, she paid attention when an exhibit with two Vermeers was announced for Boston and Kansas City.  Though one was from the National Gallery, which we have seen repeatedly, the other, The Astronomer, was from the Louvre.  Maybe we saw it on our visit, but since neither of us has a clear memory of it, it doesn’t count.  Boston in the winter?  Nah, on to Kansas City in the spring!

After our visit to a famous quilt shop, we settled in to our hotel in Country Club Plaza, walking distance from the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  Too weary to drive to Gates Barbecue, we went at the suggestion of the hotel guy to this placeIMG_20160420_203450

where we had more meat than was good for us.  Yum, the burnt ends!  Alison was happy even before dinner began:IMG_20160420_192952

The next morning we took a walk around the Plaza, which is more interesting than it sounds.  Built in the 1920s in a style that borrows heavily from Spain and Italy, it’s filled with upscale national chain stores but also has some interesting architectural details.DSC06905DSC06911

Had we met this guy in Florence?  Yes, we had.

More Spanish influence:

The weather was raw and damp, and soon enough it was raining.  We scurried down the street to the imposing art museum.


sculptures by Claes Oldenburg

We walked up the steps to this classic old-style temple of art, though the shuttlecocks give you a hint that there’s something else going on here.  In the imposing atrium was the exhibit banner, and the art-lover whose expression hints at what was to come…DSC06922

The exhibit was in the modern addition, a huge space that is seamlessly attached to the side and back of the old building.  We walked and walked and walked, and finally got to the exhibit itself.  Since no photos were allowed, I can only say that it was a fascinating exploration of class through 17th century Dutch art from museums around the world.  You can read more about the original show in Boston and peek at a few pictures here.

But as we came to the end, the Vermeer-lover looked around in confusion.  Where was The Astronomer??  No one could tell us, so we went up to the information desk and asked there.  Much to-ing and fro-ing, although both guides swore that there had only ever been one Vermeer in the exhibit.  In the end, we determined that between Boston and Kansas City, four paintings had been removed from the collection.  Insurance reasons?  Other bookings? Who knows.  Alison vows to contact the curator and determine what happened, but what can you do?

To make us feel better the guide encouraged us to view one of their jewels, the Caravaggio St. John the Baptist.  This will get us ready for Rome and Malta!  Isn’t he dreamy?Caravaggio_Baptist_Nelson-Atkins_Museum_of_Art,_Kansas_City

We enjoyed their Renaissance collection and their lovely cloister, and then had a ladies’ lunch in the stunning atrium cafe.  IMG_20160421_123702

I can only imagine the generations of Kansas City children who have been taken to the museum and then on to a special lunch or bite of cake here.

And now for something completely different, this stunning piece that looked like a quilt but wasn’t.  Created by Ghanaian artist El Anatsui, it’s made from bottletops.DSC06923

See more here.  Quilt designs are everywhere, you just have to look.

The Disneyland of Quilts!!

The main purpose of our jaunt to Kansas City was to see the Dutch art exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  But a quick look at the map showed that the Missouri Star Quilt Company was just an hour away.  You can’t pass up the opportunity to see this amazing quilt store complex, can you??

We picked up our car at the gloomy old airport and were surprised to find that they had given us a bright yellow Mustang.


Of course, all we wanted to do was to ride around (Sally), so it was good to have an hour-long trip ahead of us.  We took an almost deserted highway to a two-lane road that wound up and down rolling hills, some of them rather steep, with rich black soil in the newly plowed farm fields on either side.  Another highway, another two-lane road, and we were in Hamilton, Missouri.IMG_20160420_132414

It’s a typical small town (pop. 1800), with incredibly wide streets (presumably so you could turn a horse and carriage around), head-in parking, and not a whole lot going on.  But Jenny Doan and her family have created eleven quilt shops here, and their empire has become the biggest employer in town.

We had lunch at the Blue Sage restaurant: a huge side salad of romaine, blue cheese and bacon for me, tomato soup for Alison, and a delicious shared lamb burger with fantastic home-made potato chips.  Thus fortified, we started next door at the Florals shop.  Brightly lit, nicely laid out, and an enticing beginning to two hours of browsing, yearning and actual shopping.

Here’s a peek at what we saw.

The Modern shop had fabrics from Cotton + Steel, my fave Marsha Derse, and, as you can see, lots more.  Fabrics are arranged by manufacturer or designer.


Each shop is beautifully staged, with the Modern shop featuring this mid-century modern tableau.IMG_20160420_143643

The solids shop had colorful display windows and a rainbow of mostly solids inside.  This is where I found the Pepper Cory shot cottons from Studio E that I had not been able to find anywhere!  Now I know – everything in the store is also available online.

Quilts and inspiration on the wall.IMG_20160420_143623IMG_20160420_143224IMG_20160420_143154

Non-quilters are not forgotten.  While many quilt shops have a couple of chairs for non-quilting friends (face it, usually husbands), this one features an entire “Man’s Land.” Leather recliners, two big-screen TVs, and bookshelves featuring sports-related books and equipment.  Two guys were there, one reading a copy of Guns & Ammo, the other snoring mightily, and both covered in quilts.  Alison retired here with a good book.IMG_20160420_140423

I didn’t break the bank, but I did come away with some project-related fabric, some hard-to-find IBC pins (recommended by Judith Baker Montano), and some random beautiful stuff: blues for my Sarah Fielke BOM, William Morris and neutrals for the hexie quilt, binding for the baby quilt, the shot cottons, and the Potting Shed Daily Deal which I just could not pass up!   46% off!!IMG_20160423_103742

On the way out, we stopped for a few more photos of the main drag.

We tootled back the way we came, stopping only for a picture of this clever Trump sign.  Hate the sentiment, love the inventiveness!IMG_20160420_162850

On the way to Hampton

For the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, about which more later.  I stopped in Colonial Williamsburg at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum to see a small collection of African-American quilts on display there.  I caught the very tail end of an informative tour, given every Friday morning, and since the exhibit will be there for some time to come, it would be well worth a return trip.

There were several Gee’s Bend quilts, some gorgeous scrap quilts, and two applique quilts that I adored.  DSC06776The lighting was horrible for pictures, but you get the drift.  Below is a log cabin done in beautiful silks and cottons.


All the fabrics!

alphabet quilt


An alphabet applique quilt.  The initials and date at the bottom right helped to attribute it to quilter Doris Smith.


Above and below is an applique quilt featuring tree blocks surrounded by animals, people, airplanes and other idiosyncratic elements.  Below are Davy Crockett, a beaver, and an airplane.  DSC06782

This one features angels, birds, flowers, people and everything from shade pulls to embroidery, yarn, and assorted scraps to decorate her top.   DSC06784DSC06785

The two girls pictured here are thought to be dead in part because they are white.  I would love to know what this quilter would have said about her creation.

From here I moved into another gallery that features just a few masterpiece quilts from the Winchester, VA, quilter whose work is also included in the DAR museum.  A totally different look at applique, piecing and quilting from Amelia Lauck.  Lauck applique

Then the icing on the cake:  an incredible embroidered counterpane showing a battle scene.  Tradition says it’s from the Civil War, but historians date is as being much earlier.  Just look at the uniforms!  And the  gorgeous embroidered trees!  counterpane

More details here:  DSC06789 - CopyDSC06788

Highly recommended!

San Jose on foot

What better way to start retirement than by traveling, learning and visiting family?  Hence this trip to Costa Rica.  The first half is a quilting workshop with Craftours, followed by four days with Beth and Bill.  Great combo!  Here’s a quick report on part one.

I flew in a day early to get oriented and see a bit of San Jose.  I had booked a morning walking tour with Barrio Bird so I headed from our hotel near the airport to downtown.

My cab ride featured incredible traffic and a very friendly driver who had about as much English as I have Spanish.  We made ourselves understood and enjoyed learning from each other.  She was interested that I had no children, and I’m afraid I shocked her when I said that my religion was “nada.”  She set me down at Parque Morena where our group was to meet.

Our group was only three:  me plus a young couple, an American lawyer and a Swiss architect, who lived in Switzerland and had been traveling throughout South and Central America for over a month.  Our young, enthusiastic guide took us through all the high points.

The metallic building:  Metallic buildingvery modern in 1897, shipped from Belgium with each part labeled with a letter or number for easy setup, kind of the Ikea of its time.  You can see the letters and numbers at the bottom of the columns here.Stafford Piecemakers show 005

It’s been an elementary school ever since, and despite the fears of the townspeople, the children have not baked like cookies inside the hot metal building, due to cross-ventilation and good insulation.  I wish I could tell Pat about it (the architect was intrigued).

We walked through several small, beautiful parks featuring, of course, house plants.  They live outdoors here and get enormous.  Here’s an example, the monstera deliciosa.  MonsteraWe ended up at the liquor factory, now an arts center, most interesting to me because of the sun dial outside that was installed incorrectly.  Rather than re-do it, the powers that be installed a plaque below it with an elaborate formula for calculating the correct time.sun dial

After walking by the national library, an imposing though not very welcoming  building, librarywe came to a monument to a bit of history that most Americans know little or nothing about.  William Walker was a brilliant young man from Tennessee who earned a medical degree and studied law.  In the 1850s he decided to invade Central America with the goal of annexing it all for the US, thus creating more slave states.  Though it was not a US invasion, it was certainly sanctioned by our government.  It ended badly for Walker, and the monument commemorates the five countries (actually just provinces of Spain back then) that rallied against him.  The hero of the day was Juan Santamaria, after whom the airport is named.  statueThere’s clearly a good story there, which I will try to track down…someday.

We ended up at the National Theater, an ornate building dating from 1897.  Built with coffee money, it opened with a production of Faust and features statues of  Chopin and Beethoven among
The interior is quite lavish.interior

Between this and the metallic building, San Jose was really on the cutting edge of art and culture back in the late nineteenth century.  Oh, and our guide told us that San Jose was only the third city in the world – after Paris and London – to have electricity!  It makes me think of those opera houses built in the jungles of South America in books by Eva Ibbotson and Ann Patchett.

After catching a quick lunch at Starbucks (sorry!), I walked back to the National Museum of Costa Rica which you enter through a butterfly garden. Here’s one.


An exhibit of pre-Columbian artifacts included these remarkable stone spheres.  They date from 600 but were re-discovered in the 1930s when the United Fruit company was clearing land for banana plantations.  The culture that made them has long since disappeared.  pre-columbian spheres

From here I walked down to the nearby Jade Museum for a cold drink and a rest.  I met one of our instructors, Pepper Cory, and together we rode the hop-on hop-off bus through the city, seeing sights like the president’s house (just the condo he lived in when he was elected), the gorgeous mosaics outside the University of Costa Rica, and the seamy side of town where drugs and prostitution made for a depressing scene.  After that, the driver agreed (I don’t really know why) to drive us 40 minutes back to our hotel, which was very generous of him.  Pepper and I discovered a mutual admiration for the Bernard Cornwell books and had a lovely chat as the sun set.  And so to bed to prepare for the first workshop tomorrow.