Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clarissa's Garden Quilt

Some of you may remember this little quilt from The American Schoolgirl Club, a series of patterns I designed about a year or so ago. It's one of my favorites. One of my goals is to have another pattern series like that sometime, perhaps later this year. Good idea? The American Schoolgirl Club - The Sequel, LOL. More darling scrappy little quilts with an antique touch. Maybe a little bit of applique too because, you know, I'm doing a little more applique these days and it seems that many of you like that in your little quilts. I'm going to be travelling around to guilds doing lectures and workshops quite a bit this spring, so we'll see if I have time and energy to actually do this.

This particular pattern was very popular and sold out quickly after I ended the Club and had a few patterns left over. Some of you have asked me if I was ever going to reprint the pattern. I'm happy to say it's now going to be available again. I was going to get it printed up last week, but, well, you know how it is - things happen, I get busy. Or, I work out and then have to lie down and take a nap, LOL. Sheesh, remind me to stop getting older . . . . I promise it will be printed up shortly though. If not this week, then early next week for sure. So keep watching my website. It will be up there soon. Get your scraps ready!

Oh, and don't forget - I am also teaching a workshop to make this little quilt at the Grout Museum Cabin Fever Quilt Retreat on Feb 3 in Waterloo, Iowa. I am not organizing this, just teaching, so check with the museum, not me, to see if there are still spots available in any of the classes. I know this retreat is going to be a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to it, assuming the weather is good enough that I can actually get to Iowa in February . . . .

Monday, January 23, 2012

Week 4 - Quilting Your Little Quilt

This is the week you should be working on finishing your little Crosses Mourning quilt. I started quilting mine over the weekend and hope to finish before we begin another small quilt for Feb, sometime next week.

I really love the look of a little doll quilt that is quilted very simply. In this quilt I quilted in the ditch around the inside of each block, then quilted inside the black part and just a simple stitch through the center of the colored cross part of the block. The sashing will be quilted with a few straight lines and I have not decided what I will do on the border yet.

If you have not tried hand quilting, now would be a perfect time. If you do not like using straight-line quilting,  here's a great place to buy quilting stencils that are easy to use with a water soluble marking pen. They also have stencils for small quilt borders so check out the border page. This little wavy one is one of my favorites and I admit I use it often.

My favorite quilting thread is YLI quilting thread. I'm very partial to the light brown as it gives a nice antique look when stitched on both light and dark fabrics.

I'm clearly not an expert and my stitches could be a little smaller and straighter, but it sure is fun and I love the look of a little quilt that's hand quilted. If you haven't taken the time to do any hand quilting, try it out on a small quilt. It doesn't have to be heavily quilted--just try stitching a straight line or Xs in the blocks to get yourself going. Even a little bit of hand quilting gives a special look to a quilt. And, don't forget, if you make a mistake, it will only add to the charm.

If I use a simple quilting design, it usually takes a couple of evenings or a week at most to finish a small quilt and is very relaxing for me. If the stitches are less than perfect or a little quirky, oh well. Antique doll quilts were not perfect either. I'm not interested in making them perfect specimens or trying to win prizes. Just having fun. I hope you are too.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Drama in the Big Backyard, No Time to Quilt

I became very upset one day last week. I love watching the beautiful cardinals that come to my backyard feeder. I think of them as MY cardinals. Well, the dog started barking at the window and I turned around just in time to see a huge hawk swoop down from the tree, snatch a cardinal at the feeder and fly away with it. I felt so sad most of that day. Call me silly, but I hate witnessing this predator-prey aspect of nature. For goodness sake, I live in an URBAN area. We pretend things like that just don't happen.

The week before last, the dog was barking at the window and I thought it was just a squirrel - but when I ran to the window to shoo it away so she'd stop making so much noise, there, skulking between my house and my neighbor's house, was the biggest CAT-like animal I have ever seen. It was not an ordinary house cat, but something much larger and more sinister looking. The squirrels and birds started making a LOT of racket and then it ran away. I was pretty shaken and thought it may have been a bobcat or something. It was that big. I looked it up and saw that bobcats are spotted and have short tails. This cat-creature had a very lonnnng tail and was a pale tan color all over. This will make sense after you read the next paragraph. Besides, what would a bobcat be doing here, in the Chicago area?

After talking to a few neighbors who have dogs, I decided to call the village police to see if anyone else had reported seeing anything like it roaming around. I sure didn't want to run into it while I walked the dogs at night. They said no, are you sure it wasn't a fox? Sheesh, I know what a fox looks like and I was wearing my glasses. This was as big or bigger than my 48-lb dog. Apparently no one had reported anything but the police told me that there had been several COUGAR sightings in a nearby suburb, near a wooded area, and they were on alert. COUGARS??? In the Chicago area?? MY yard?? I remembered that a couple of years ago a cougar was killed by police right in the city proper so I know it's not impossible. Jeepers.

I hear there's also a coyote roaming about the neighborhood. My neighbor's dog walker said one approached him within several yards when he was walking her dog the other day, just a few blocks away. So now we have to be extra careful with our little dog. She doesn't understand why I've been keeping her on a leash and going out there with her every time she needs to pee. Brrr! Seems like 12 times a day . . . More when it's cold, of course.

Dog paw prints? No, I went out there first, before I let them out, right after it snowed, so they hadn't even run through the snow yet. Squirrel tracks? No, much bigger than a squirrel's foot.

You don't think it's BIGFOOT, do you??

So now I'm afraid to let either dog out alone and I spend a little time every day on COUGAR patrol, looking for suspicious tracks in the snow . . .  I won't rest until the neighborhood canines (and I) are safe! Wonder why I'm not getting any quilting done, LOL?

You can tell she's on alert too. Ears perked, adrenaline pumped, ready to rumble . . .  Bring it on, Cougar/Coyote!

The other dog is not quite as nervous. Tells me to relax, figures he can take a coyote any day. LOL, he's a typical male, did you guess? No drama for him. He's much more interested in the ordinary day-to-day stuff that goes on in the big backyard . . .  . What's cooking, good looking?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What Inspired Me Today

I woke up feeling kind of yucky this morning, with a scratchy throat, like maybe I was coming down  with a cold. Did not feel like doing much, even though I had a lot to do. Ever have one of those mornings?

I fed the dogs, made myself a cup of  tea, took some Tylenol, and sat down and checked my e-mail. There was a message from the Dear Jane e-mail list I'm on that contained a little note from Karan Flanscha that I wanted to share with you. I know some of you are making your own Dear Jane quilts or have already finished one.


Greetings, Sticklers!!
I have exciting news . . . I have finished my big Dear Jane "In Time of Recollection" . . . started 1-1-1997 and finished today, on my birthday . . . 1-18-2012. It will be part of an exhibit "Covered By Glory: Civil War Commemorative Quilts" at the Grout Museum of History & Science in Waterloo, Iowa. The exhibit will be open from Jan. 27 - September 1st, if any of you will be traveling in the Midwest. There will be around 50 wonderful Civil War era quilts, and reproduction quilts shared by quilters like Barbara Brackman, Brenda Papadakis, Mimi Dietrich, Kathy Tracy, Judi Rothermel, Fons & Porter, and many others.
When I started my Dear Jane, I knew it would be a 'long term project'. . . I didn't think 15 years, but a lot has happened over those years!! My quilt is sewn entirely by hand, even the binding (front & back) was sewn by hand. That actually worked really well... no anxiety or hassles trying to fit the big quilt under the sewing machine and pivoting the scallops!! My personal challenge was to stitch my quilt as much like Jane Stickle sewed hers, as I could. A column in the local newspaper stated 'women today could not make quilts like the very old ones' (we just couldn't do work with wonderful applique, piecing and quilting!!)

My colors are not all like Jane's . . . when I started, I planned to make 49 blocks, but then I found more of my background fabric, and by that time I had learned that Dear Jane is not a quilt . . . it is a lifestyle VBG!!

Here is a quote that sort of sums up my Dear Jane experience:

"My whole life is in that quilt. It scares me sometimes when I look at it. All my joys and all my sorrows are stitched into those little pieces . . . I tremble sometimes, when I remember what that quilt knows about me." (Credited to "an Ohio
great-grandmother reminisicing to Marguerite Ickis".)

There are so many wonderful memories associated with my quilt, and some sad ones too . . . quilters who have 'crossed over to Glory' ahead of us. For those of you working on your blocks . . . a 'Tilde thread' a day will keep you moving forward . . . most of my blocks were stitched in 'found time' . . . little bits of time here and there that have added up to so much more. Thanks to all of you who have been part of my journey!!

Happy Stitching



This is just what I needed to motivate me. How exciting it must be to finally complete that quilt! I felt so proud of and happy for her. Before long, the Tylenol kicked in and I started to feel better. Or was it reading Karan's inspiring message that made me feel better? Probably a little of both. So, in honor of Karan's completed Dear Jane quilt, I decided to take some time today to finish another block of my own. Thanks, Karan! Wonder if I'll be able to finish mine in 15 years??

Not a difficult block, true, but still - lots of tiny pieces.

This makes 39 blocks finished since 2010 . . . . Don't worry, I'll catch up.

I first saw Karan's almost-finished quilt in 2010 when I taught a workshop for her guild.

Every time I look at these photos I become inspired. I will be in Iowa  again in less than 2 weeks to teach at the Grout Museum Cabin Fever Retreat and to see the Covered by Glory quilt exhibit Karan talked about. And Karan's Dear Jane quilt. Can't wait. I hope she lets me take more pictures so I can show you. I'll bet you'll be inspired too.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Small Quilt - Week 3

If you are following along with me you have already pieced the blocks for this month's little quilt from my book Prairie Children & Their Quilts - am I right? Yesterday, I put the sashing and borders on mine and that's your task for this week. It will only take a few hours, maybe less. If you're just joining us, scroll down the blog to see the quilt we're working on that was posted a couple of weeks ago.

Take your time choosing your sashing and borders. I always audition tons of prints before I choose which print I want to place next to the blocks (for the sashing) and which ones for the inner and outer borders. The quilt in the book uses the same print for the sashing and inner border but I used a different one for each for this quilt.

Take time to choose your outer border carefully as well. Look at the quilt in Prairie Children. This is a great way to use up a large floral print you may have been saving. If you do that, make sure your sashing and inner borders are not as busy as the  border print. Pick a smaller pattern perhaps so the border stands out and doesn't clash with the inner border or sashing. For this quilt I'm making along with you, I chose a small tan floral for a very different look.

These were a few of my other border choices and I hope I picked the right one. Which one would you have picked? All of them would have looked cute.

As you can see, I made the four-block version so it did not take me long at all. Since the original quilt was very dark with dark blocks, sashing and borders, I chose to make this little one in lighter tones, keeping the dark blocks.

Ta dah! The top is done after only a few hours. Choosing fabric took the longest time. I almost chose one of the other blue and tan floral prints but then decided on this subtle print primarily because when I quilt it I want the quilting to stand out a bit. Also, I don't have very many quilts with a light border.

Have fun and show me your quilts -  either in the Yahoo group photo album or on Flickr. Next week I'll try to motivate you to quilt it before we begin another small quilt for February.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Swear the Dog Needs a Job

You know your dog visits the vet a little too often when he gets his own Walgreens prescription card!

The big puppy or "Big Rig" as we like to call him, recently had another bout with illness (tumor on his spleen, turned out to be benign) that required more surgery but is recovering nicely and anxious to get back to work so he can help pay for all of his $$ medical bills $$.

He was recently laid off from his longtime job of waking the teenage girl in the house every morning because she went off to college and now has to find someone else to do that for her. Chasing squirrels doesn't really pay much so if you know of any part-time positions available for a sweet, friendly, hard-working, conscientious Wheaten Terrier, let us know. Just send an application to the house because, look, he gets junk mail now too.

Only a matter of time before his voter registration card arrives. This is an election year and we live near Chicago where every vote counts . . . sometimes twice.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Small Quilt - Week 2

Hopefully some of you have chosen your fabric and cut the pieces for your blocks for the Crosses Mourning quilt in my book Prairie Children & Their Quilts. I had so much fun motivating you to begin this year of making small quilts that I decided to make this one right along with you. Since I already made the one in the book with nine blocks, I am making the smaller version of the quilt (with only 4 blocks) that I started on Saturday.

Week 2 (this week!) is the week you are supposed to piece your blocks together and so I am not going to get ahead of myself here. Yep, that's all I did  - took it kind of slow and just pieced these four blocks together in about an hour. This way I feel like I can do other things this week but I've still accomplished something here and am certain I will finish this one this month.  How about you? Small quilts are the easiest and most fun for me and, unless something dreadful comes along, this weekly schedule of doing just a little at a time should work out just fine.

Sometime next week we'll work on the sashing and borders and, before you know it, the quilt will be finished

Are you still with me??

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Civil War Sewing Circle Club

Here's some more fun for you to think about. Some of you are enjoying making this small quilt of the month with me and so I thought I'd pass along a link to another shop that is doing a quilt a month from my latest book, The Civil War Sewing Circle.

Jerry Stube at Quilters Quarters in Leavenworth, Kansas, is coordinating a year-long program at the shop to make ALL of the quilts from this book beginning in March. With kits! That means loads of fabric. This is also going to be available for her online customers. That could be you.

Jerry has done programs like this in the past with my other books. I've heard good things about them and you and I know that clubs are a great way for you to actually get some quilts made. Sometimes all you need is a little nudge. Online clubs like this are terrific if you cannot take a class at a local quilt shop. You can still join in the fun. Even better if the fabric is already chosen for you and delivered right to your door. 

Knock, knock. Who's there? Fabric.

Okay, so I tell jokes like a three-year-old, with no punchline, but you get the point. And, if you join the club, you get Fabric. Every month. So check with Jerry and see what she has in store for you beginning in March.

At some point we may also be doing one or two quilts from this book in our small quilt quilt-a-long in the Yahoo group and through this blog as we go through the year.

Some of you have finished this month's quilt already! Good for you! If you are not in the Yahoo group and have nowhere to post photos so we can all see them (and ooh and ahh), you can upload them to my Flickr group - Quilts Designed by Kathy Tracy, which I created last year just so we can see what people are making.

If you haven't started cutting your pieces yet, get going . . . there's still time.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Quilt of the Month - Week 1

For those of you who are doing this small quilt challenge with me where we'll be making 12 quilts this year (# 1 - Crosses Mourning Quilt from Prairie  Children & Their Quilts this month), by the end of this weekend you should have at least picked out your fabric and perhaps cut out the pieces for the blocks.

These blocks can be made strictly from an assortment of your scraps. In making my quilt,  I chose nine different muted (but still colorful) prints. I used an assortment of light prints and shirtings for the backgrounds and 2 different black prints for each block, sometime repeating prints. If you don't have a lot of black to use, and you like the dark motif, how about indigo or dark brown? I think those would work just as well.

This beginning part shouldn't take long at all and if you're following along at my simple, no-pressure pace, you can stop now and work on piecing the blocks together next week. Here are some sample pieces for a block that took me all of 15 minutes to choose and cut. Follow the cutting directions in your book and do this 9 times for 9 blocks for the quilt in the book or 4 times if you're making the smaller version with 4 blocks. A couple of hours, at most.

I did not use red in my original quilt but I really like the way this looks.

Now put it aside and work on your other projects or go for a walk. Don't pressure yourself to finish it today. Don't worry, you'll get it done. You can get to it again next week when you have a little time. However, I would be very surprised if you stopped here, LOL. Sometimes small quilts are so much fun to make that it's very easy to just keep going until you finish the whole thing (like that bag of chips, but let's not go there . . . ) 

Small quilts do not require a lot of time but there is such a sense of satisfaction when you finish one. I know that disciplining yourself to get started is the hard part. We always have so much to do but, like exercise, if you don't carve out the time, it's just not gonna happen. If you just do a little at a time, every week, on a consistent basis, you'll finish this quilt by the end of this month and then we'll start another in February.  I'm pretty sure it's going to be a red & white Valentine's Day version of another one of my little quilts but I'm not telling which one yet.

Thanks for joining me!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

One Small Quilt a Month

Many of you know that am I owner and moderator of a Yahoo group called Small Quilt Talk where those of us who like love to make small quilts can chat about and show photos of projects we make. Sometimes we do challenges and have swaps among the members. There's always a lot of quilty chatter and our members are from all skill levels (and countries too). Everyone is always willing to help beginners, answer questions and give support to our collective small-quilting addiction.

Tell me if this sounds like fun. We are currently beginning a challenge to make some small quilts this year from patterns in some of my books. One quilt a month for the year. Many of you have some if not all of my books and someone in the group thought that this would be a great way to finally get around to making some of them. Maybe you are having trouble getting started. I know how it is  - I have so many quilt pattern books and usually buy them because of  certain patterns I really love and am dying to make. Do I make them? Hardly ever, I have to admit.

Did you know that there are patterns for at least 40 small quilts, or doll quilts, in all four of my books? (If you count the large ones there are even more.). That's a lot of quilts to choose from. I know not everyone likes ALL of the quilts and many of you have made some of them. There are some of you who would really like to make a few more. This is what you tell me when I visit your guilds and I show my quilts. Why else are we inspired to buy the books if not to try making the quilts?

This is about 1/3 of my small quilts . . . .

I am extending my group challenge to the Sentimental Quilter blog-readership and it is going to work this way. Every month I will choose a quilt from one of my books and challenge you to make it. I'll upload a  file to the Yahoo group to assign the quilt and also to show you an alternate way of making the quilt - colors, size, etc. Because of copyright, I am unable to reprint the patterns from the books and give them to you here for free, and I hope you understand. I think many of you already have the books anyway or you wouldn't be a fan of my quilts and reading this blog, right?

Here are some of my friend Julia's small quilts. Isn't this adorable? She's as crazy as I am. Imagine, at the end of the year you could have your own little stack of quilts just like this . . .

Every month there will be another small quilt assigned from one of my books and you can choose to participate in all or one or none. No pressure. But if you do participate, just think, by the end of the year you will have 12 small quilts completed! Not bad.

Also, we will be doing this as a sort of Small-Quilt-a-Long. In the yahoo group (maybe here too) I hope to prompt and motivate those of you who are doing this to keep working on the quilt. The first week of each month I will choose the quilt and try to encourage you to begin choosing fabrics and maybe cut your pieces. The second week I will try to prompt you to sew them together. The third week is for sashing and/or borders and the last week I will encourage you to quilt your little quilt and finish it. Sound like fun??

Of couse, it's all easy for me because I have already made all the quilts, LOL. Some of them twice - or even three times (!) so my part is simple. You guys have to do all the work and make the little scrappy quilts you tell me you love so much. But honestly, they take very little time to finish. They're so SMALL. And - at the end of the year you can have your very own Wall of Quilts to rival this one that belongs to an antique doll quilt collector! I never get tired of being inspired by this photo. You can even make 2 every month in different colors and give one to a friend.

(From Collecting American Country by Mary Emmerling )

You can still participate even if you are not a member of the Small Quilt group. Only members can view the files and post and view photos of the finished quilts, however.

This is a wonderful way to get the New Quilting Year off to a great start  -  and feel good about making some of those quilts from the books that are beginning to collect dust . . .

To kick off the year, I chose this quilt for January - from Prairie Children and Their Quilts, my second book.

Crosses Mourning Quilt

When the pioneers left their homes and headed west in covered wagons, women sometimes brought along quilts for the journey that were intended to comfort the sick and perhaps even shroud the dead. One young woman wrote about her mother who had passed away while on the trail west. They had to leave her and continue on their journey. "The rolling hills were ablaze with beautiful roses . . . and we heaped and covered mother's grave with the lovely roses so the cruel stones were hid from view." I made this little mourning quilt (with the beautiful  border of roses print) as a memoriam to the many men, women and children who died on the trail and because I was so touched by that quote.

Mourning quilts made during the nineteenth century were often expressions of loss and sorrow, and healing was hastened perhaps by the comfort of making a quilt. Pieces of clothing from the deceased were sometimes included in the quilt as reminders of and tributes to the departed.

So get out your books, quilters, and join the fun. Make a small quilt a month. I know you can do it!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy Healthy New Year!

(Just to warn you, this post may be heavy on the vegetables so get out now if you feel you must!)

It's January 1 again! I always make resolutions on January 1 and sometimes I keep them but they always seem to be the same ones. And this year is no different. Isn't that the truth? I'm doing it a bit differently this time though and trying to make small, important changes that will stick without pressuring myself so much that I get stressed and give up before February gets here.

For instance, the exercise thing - always the first thing on my list every year and the one thing I try so hard to make work for me. Until I give up for some stupid reason (Okay, I'll give myself a break -  ankle, foot and knee injuries are a good excuse and I've suffered from those time and time again. But just when I think I'm off the hook there's always some wise*** who suggests . . . swimming!)  I already began an exercise program recently to get some of my muscle strength back and I will try to continue working on that if I can. If it's not too cold to walk outside, that is . . . Otherwise, there's a track nearby that I used to go to but haven't been to in awhile. No excuse. It's only about 5 miles away. Why does it have to be so hard to put that one foot in front of the other, LOL??

This is better than walking around inside a mall when it's 20 degrees or less outside. Also, I am not tempted to spend any money LOL.

If I time it right I won't have to walk around the track while all of the skinny people are working out below me with their loud music. I'm trying to listen to a book on my ipod you guys . . .

Keep eating my fiber! I love most vegetables and eat plenty (fruits too) but I mostly cook them. Because I have suffered from some nasty digestive ailments in the past, this year I am determined to try to increase my fiber even more and eat more raw vegetables. Fiber for me keeps the doctor away. No, I have no interest in eating a raw diet AT ALL. And I think the jury is still out on which is better for you -  cooked or raw. Did you know that raw carrots supply polyphenols, chemicals with antioxidant properties that may reduce cancer and the risk of heart disease? Cooking carrots destroys all the polyphenols and breaks down the vitamin C so your body can't use it. Yet cooking supplies MORE beta carotene than raw which is one reason we eat the vegetables in the first place, isn't it? The same holds true for spinach, cabbage, peppers, asparagus and many other veggies. I think the solution is to just eat a combination of both.

When I cook my vegetables I don't get as much fiber as I could. Last year I started grating a whole raw carrot into my salads at home and sometimes will add half of a grated apple too. Yum. Seriously, it makes for a very good salad and I will sometimes add a handful of walnuts too. Seems to fill me up much better. If only I could find a low-fat dressing I liked  . . . That's what usually gets me every time. The quest is on to find a dressing I like that isn't high in fat.

I try not to  eat a whole lot of processed foods and I usually do fine but I sure like to snack as much as anybody else. If there's a bag of chips in the house I will eat it so the key for me is to just not buy it or only buy them occasionally. I get really tired of eating raw veggies and dip.  I cannot eat many of those ready-made dips or any dip made with soup mix because of the MSG or added spices and flavorings. Here's a dip I made over the holidays that everyone liked really well. I made more today and added more raw vegetables -

I used my nifty little mini-food processor to chop up fresh broccoli and red pepper and then added the vegetables to Greek yogurt (twice the protein as regular and thicker and creamier too) with a little garlic powder and salt. No, I did not eat the whole bowl! Not bad and a good way for me to get in those raw vegetables instead of eating boring raw veggies with a high-fat dip. Too bad my favorite crackers have a little too many calories . . . . Have you tried these?? They're half pretzels, half crackers and very crispy.

I don't usually eat a lot of sugar snacks on a regular basis but boy did I have way too much over the past several weeks. Candy, fudge, cookies . . . you name it. So it looks like sugar is going to have to go too. Goodbye  Peppermint Bark! Here's my healthy substitute -  SKINNY POP.

Probably the single best popcorn I have ever had without butter. And I like it just fine without. Look at those calories. Or lack of them I should say. A little pricey and so I try to make the bag last but even if I don't - it won't kill me to eat more than a cup. Low in sodium too. Made in Chicago so you may have to check to see if they sell this in your area.

I haven't even had time to think about my quilting resolutions yet. I think this is what is going to occupy my mind instead of quilting for awhile until I get into a routine and the changes stick. I did promise myself I  would get some more Dear Jane blocks finished in the coming weeks, months, so don't worry, I'm still here. Just taking a little health break.