Category Archives: Quilts

Quilts From Central Asia

Another part of our multi-faceted, 3000 mile road trip — the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, NE.

Catbird Quilt Studio

Last month Jim and I traveled across northern Nebraska and through Wyoming to Yellowstone National Park. We’ve posted several times about our 3,000 mile road trip in our joint blog, Our View From Iowa.

When we returned, we dropped south into Colorado before driving across southern Nebraska. For our route, the most convenient way to cross the Missouri River is on I-80 at Omaha. To get that far, we went through Lincoln, NE, home of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum.

A few days before, Jim asked me if I wanted to stop at the museum on the way by. Well, YEAH! I visited the museum with my sister a few years ago and was glad for the opportunity to go back.

The current exhibits included four small galleries, none of which drew my interest. Besides the small exhibits, a large gallery displayed dozens of quilts and…

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Cotton — Weaving Fabric

Another post in the series on manufacturing fabric.

Catbird Quilt Studio

Earlier this month I began a series of posts on where our quilting fabric comes from. There are so many steps in the process, from growing the cotton, cleaning and spinning it, weaving it, and then making it beautiful. Agricultural workers, biologists, engineers, designers, textile laborers, and more, all contribute to creating the raw materials of our craft. When I consider all the moving parts, I give thanks to all those who help make my projects possible.

The first post looked primarily at planting and harvesting cotton. Next came cleaning and spinning the cotton into yarn. Now we’ll look at weaving.

After creating yarn (threads,) the yarn is woven into fabric. In the most basic weaving process, there are warp yarns, which run lengthwise away from the front of the loom. These are the yarns that are pre-strung. Weft yarns (or filling yarns) are interlaced at a right angle through them using a shuttle or other mechanism such…

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Cotton — Where Does Your Fabric Come From?

Cotton is part of all of our lives. It’s in our clothing and other textiles, our money, our food, and our livestock feed. If you’ve ever wondered where your t-shirt comes from, here is part of that story.

Catbird Quilt Studio

That’s a silly question, huh? Fabric comes from the store, either online or bricks-and-mortar. Or it comes from your stash or that of a friend or relative. Or perhaps it comes from an auction or estate sale.

Just like canned tomatoes come from the grocery.

In fact there is a large story of where cotton — and your cotton quilting fabric — comes from. This is the first in a series of posts to explore that.

Cotton has a long history as a cultivated crop for textiles. Archeological evidence shows it in Central America at least 7,000 years ago. Besides the Americas, it’s been found in the Middle East from at least 3,000 years ago, and Europe more than a thousand years ago.

Currently it is one of the most important crops grown in the United States. It is used in the textile industry, the livestock industry, and in processed foods…

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2013 Year in Review

It seemed so simple. All we wanted from 2013 was a better, easier year than the one before. 2012 was marked with stress arising from the election, extended family tensions, health concerns, and other matters. Surely 2013 would be better.

But the year began badly, marked by events we couldn’t have foreseen, with effects on us and others that continue.

We are strong. We go on. And even with such a rough start, we succeeded in our modest hopes. It was, in fact, a very good year.

Neither of us are especially nostalgic, eschewing all the year-end reviews that mark the end of December. This year, however, we write our own.

Though stunned from the beginning, we quickly turned focus to upcoming celebrations. Our son graduated in mid-May with his master’s in mechanical engineering. The next day he commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Air Force. And at the end of May, we helped move him to Vance Air Force Base in Enid, Oklahoma, where he began his pilot training. Those stories are told here:
On becoming an officer
On moving to Vance Air Force Base

We also looked forward to travel, with plans to visit Glacier National Park and Canada’s Banff National Park in July. In the meantime, we enjoyed hiking with my sister and brother-in-law in Illinois’s Starved Rock State Park. Before and after our big trip to Glacier, there were other hiking expeditions in Oklahoma, Iowa, Indiana, Ohio, and West Virginia. A few of those stories, with wonderful photos by Jim, are here:
Glacier National Park, part 1
Glacier National Park, part 2
Banff National Park, part 1
Banff National Park, part 2
Maquoketa Caves State Park
Backbone State Park
Hike Along the Cedar River
Shades State Park Again After 33 Years
Hocking Hills Winter Hike
Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

We write, and we teach. To create venues for those needs for expression, we began this blog, Our View from Iowa. Our interests are broad, and we use this to publish posts on politics, hunger, and other social issues, science, nature, and personal concerns. In addition, Jim created the JAR Blog as a site more focused on science topics. In July, I also launched Catbird Quilt Studio. With more than 300 posts between the three blogs, I guess you could say we’ve been very expressive!

Besides working on our own blogs, we helped update the website for our nearest food pantry, the North Liberty Community Pantry. Since early this year, I’ve also volunteered a couple hours a week at the pantry. They provide seasonal clothes for children, and I help take care to make sure area children have appropriate, stylish clothing to wear.

After countless hours volunteering for the election in 2012, Jim’s taken a breather this year. He even retired (for the last time!) in June. But he stays busy. His gardening in the summer filled our freezer with produce to enjoy throughout the year. And he plays electric blues guitar regularly, one more creative outlet for him.

This has been a year of creativity for me in my quilting. Most of my quilts for the year are shown in this gallery.

As the year comes to a close, we find our lives full and rich, blessed with family and friends, with much to do, and means to reach out into the world.

We look forward to 2014, not with any wish for “more” or “better.” Our lives are blessed with plenty, and with peace and happiness.

We wish you a year of peace and plenty in 2014, as well.

A Center Block for a Medallion Quilt

Join me at Catbird Quilt Studio, my new, dedicated quilting blog. Thanks for stopping!

Catbird Quilt Studio

A medallion quilt is one with a large central motif, surrounded by multiple borders. It’s as simple as that.

“A large central motif” is a decorative design or pattern. There is no rule for what creates the design, or for how large it must be. It could be a special piece of fabric. It could be a great orphan block you’ve been hoping to use, or a new block pattern you want to try. Maybe you have a piece of embroidery or applique, or a printed panel. A photograph on fabric, or a beautiful handkerchief or piece of kitchen linen might work for you. There are no rules here. You get to choose!

Yesterday I pulled a number of things from drawers and bins and my closet, curious about what might make a center block. Here are a few things I found.

And for a little more inspiration, here are…

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You can find me…

at Catbird Quilt Studio. I’m proud to announce my new blog devoted to quilting. While I’ll still write here and plan to republish some of the quilting posts here as well, most new quilting posts will originate there. I invite you to come on over and take a look!

This is the project I’ve been working on recently. It’s a medallion quilt, which I began early this year. Unlike almost every other project I ever do, it’s FOR ME! and has no deadline or urgency. So I’ve enjoyed taking my time and stretching out the process.

Just a taste. Come to Catbird Quilt Studio to see more!

See you there!

Second quarter quilt roundup

by Melanie in IA

The last three months have flown by, and I don’t have a lot to brag about from a quilting perspective. With our son’s graduation, commissioning into the Air Force, and move to Vance Air Force Base, there were plenty of other things to do.

Our house was busy for the celebrations, with daughters and their husbands and children happily filling the lower level. Fourteen of us fit into a home that these days just has two. To get ready, I moved almost all my sewing/quilting equipment and supplies. My domestic machines, threads, notions, cutters, needles, pins, all got moved. The ironing board was put in a closet and the cutting table was brought upstairs to use for meals on the deck. (I have table leg extenders for it. With them off, it’s just a folding table.) All my art supplies were hidden, as well. For more than a month, I had limited access to it all.

And then I had to get it all back out.

We had a party, an open house for friends, family, and some of our son’s teachers. Though we had the meal catered by a local grocery (pulled pork, chicken, beans, fruit — it was good!), my daughter and I made the cookies.

Besides the Double Chocolate Cookies, I also made lemon cookies and peanut butter cookies. None of them looked fancy but they were oh so tasty! I also cooked ahead most of the food just to feed all the people in the house. No one went hungry!

The Commissioning Quilt

And since I didn’t have anything else to do, just before putting away all my supplies, I made a special quilt for a special friend of our son’s.

The Commissioning Quilt was a gift for the man who flew across the country to take part in the ceremony. Part of the tradition of the commissioning ceremony is that of the new officer’s first salute from an enlisted airman. Son had asked a friend, Steve, to honor him with his first salute. Steve lives in Seattle, WA, and they had worked together during the summer Son interned at Boeing. Steve enthusiastically provided Son with his impressions of the Air Force. As a military retiree, he had spent more than 20 years serving.

Steve called within minutes after he received the package from us, elated and touched by the gift. His reaction made it all worthwhile.

The Little Quilt

In the first quarter I made a small quilt in order to test the tension on my long-arm machine. While making it I decided to give it to my sister’s grand-daughter, a bright, cheery two-year-old. This quarter I finished it with binding and made a pillow to go with it. The pillow, in fact, was made with star block my other sister made.

Round Robins

Okay, so it isn’t like I did nothing for the quarter! I also worked on round robins with my small group. We have nine women in my group with a range of skills in all areas of quilting. Some are great at paper piecing; some of us have never done that. Some are talented at applique; others hesitate to try.

Though some were reluctant, we all agreed to try a round robin this year. In January we exchanged center blocks. Since then they’ve been passed four times, with borders added each time. Now the tops are done and our goal is to have finished quilts in September.

Here are four of the five tops I worked on, including the one I started.

My own center, surrounded by friendship! Isn’t it beautiful?

Robin’s center. We all love this one.

Karen’s center star, surrounded by stripes in many directions.

Cleanne’s center. She is thrilled with how it turned out.

Though all so different, I think they are all spectacular! All of us enjoyed it, and at our meeting this month the vote to do another round robin was a unanimous “YES!”

The Medallion Quilt

Finally, I am still working on a medallion quilt for myself. Originally I had no notions of what it would become, and then I thought it would be a bed quilt. As it turns out, I won’t make it quite that large.

A number of things have slowed me down on this project, none of which I mind. First, I have no deadline for it, since it is only to please me. Second, I had no plan or pattern in mind, and am designing as I go. Sometimes I try something and find it doesn’t work well. For example, I made a couple dozen 6″ churndash blocks to turn on point and create a border. Once they were made, however, I didn’t like how they looked. Each block was too intricate to use that way, and their colors didn’t work well, either. I thought for a long time before deciding on the simpler and smaller four-patches framed by turquoise triangles.

Besides all that, I have been stopped a few times when I needed to buy more fabric. As a scrap quilt, it doesn’t have to have specific patterns. However, they do need to coordinate for color. The center out to the edge of the broken dishes defined the color palette pretty clearly. Additions have stayed within that framework.

I’m happy with how it’s going so far. After I finish the current border, I might only have one or two more. Even though I don’t have a deadline, my goal is to finish it before the end of third quarter.

The colors don’t show quite right. The 4-patch border has turquoise setting triangles, but on my computer they show more blue. The pinks in the barber pole border (candy stripes?) are double pinks, and here they look more salmon to me.

What have you been working on? Are you happy with your projects for the quarter?

The graduation quilt

I almost always have multiple projects in process, so the question of WAYWO (What Are You Working On?) usually stumps me a little. Sure, a project will take the forefront for a while, but few are done start to finish with no intervening work on other items.

Take, for example, my son’s graduation quilt. I started designing it in fall of 2010 at the beginning of his senior (fourth) year in college. At the time he was on track to graduate with a bachelors in mechanical engineering in May 2011.

But plans changed. He decided to enter Air Force ROTC, though most students enter the sequence of classes as freshmen or sophomores. There was no way he could finish school in four years and fulfill the requirements of AFROTC.

No problem! Besides finishing the BS, he would also enter and finish a masters in engineering, a plan approved by the engineering college, AFROTC, and the parents. Ultimately, this led to a date for his bachelors degree of May 2012, and the masters degree and commissioning into the Air Force of May 2013.

The Design

When I design quilts as gifts, I try to incorporate symbolism that represents the recipient to me. Whether or not they understand it, I do, and it helps me to “love on” every cut, press, and stitch. It was easy to decide what kind of symbols to use for his gift, especially once he’d decided to enter the Air Force. Propellers. Airplane propellers are appropriate, but so are wind turbine propellers, as he spent a couple of years working with a professor on wind energy projects.

There are lots of ways to include spinners into quilts, lots of windmill and pinwheel variations. I drew dozens of designs using blue and yellow, the Air Force colors, before settling on this:

This is a 9×9 layout using 2 blocks that create a secondary pattern. Only straight lines are used, but the combination gives the illusions of curves and circular motion. I also like the plaid effect that comes out from the block arrangement, giving reference to our Scottish heritage on my side of the family.
To see more click here

The commissioning quilt

by Melanie in IA

Last Saturday evening, our son became an officer in the United States Air Force. I wrote this post about his journey to that point. My essay, “Flyers,” is another look from a different direction. He spent many years getting ready for that moment, and he worked especially hard the last three years.

We celebrated his achievements and the commencement of his career with family time, graduation, a party, and the commissioning ceremony. For four days the house was full with family. Our son, our daughters and their husbands and seven children, and we squeezed into our home. Son’s fiancee and other family and friends came by, also. To get ready, we baby-proofed the house to protect the kids from all of my sewing tools and equipment. And we house-proofed to protect the house from the kids!

For the party I baked dozens of cookies, as did the nearby daughter. I made double chocolate ones, as well as peanut butter cookies and lemon cookies! She made chocolate chip, chocolate with macadamia nuts, and chocolate with mint m&ms! The rest of the party food was catered by a local grocery.

While I was in the midst of getting the house ready and preparing food, I decided to do one more project. Before putting away all my sewing equipment, I pulled four fabrics to make a quick quilt.

Part of the tradition of the commissioning ceremony is that of the new officer’s first salute from an enlisted airman. Son had asked a friend, Steve, to honor him with his first salute. Steve lives in Seattle, WA, and they had worked together during the summer Son interned at Boeing. Steve enthusiastically provided Son with his impressions of the Air Force. As a military retiree, he had spent more than 20 years serving.

I asked Son if he wanted me to make a quilt for Steve, to thank him for flying 2,000 miles and taking part in the occasion. Son said, “No.” But I did, anyway.

It was a crazy plan: start a quilt on May 8 and finish by a week later. I had a pattern in mind, and the fabrics chosen that morning. And with that, I made four large Ohio stars, each 15″. Once sashed and with a pieced border, they made a quilt finishing at 54″ square.

To see the quilt and learn more, click here

Quilt: Make a block with me

Last fall I made eight quilts, one for each of Jim’s siblings. When I was done, I wanted to make one for Jim, also. I made a quilt for him a few years ago, but he has it hung on his office wall. It isn’t a quilt to cuddle under.

Here is Jim’s quilt. It’s about 70″ square, plenty big for two people to cuddle under.

The center block of Jim’s quilt is the same as a block used in one of the siblings quilts.

I made another version, also, just because I liked it so much. It became the center of the little quilt for a little girl.

The blocks were inspired by a block I saw on a pattern, so I can’t take credit for originality. You can make this block, too — it’s easier than it looks. With block made, you can make more to make a larger quilt, frame it once with a border and make a table mat, or make a number of borders for an old-fashioned medallion quilt. What you do with yours is up to you!

For a tutorial on building this block, click here.