Monday, January 31, 2011

Louisiana Log Cabin


This quilt is one I made several years ago after a visit to Natchitoches, La.  Our youngest son was a student at Northwestern State University and working at a handmade furniture store.  We toured the furniture business where a unique bed, called the Louisiana Bayou Bed, was made and sold worldwide.  Rory showed us the equipment used to turn the posts and explained how each piece was made so that the wood grain matches perfectly.

Walking through the furniture shop, I kept thinking about the kind of quilt that would be a fitting representation of the artist's work.  When we returned home, I set to work with some browns and greens.  I wanted to used the colors that are easily found in the bayous of our great state.  The center, or hearth, of the block is a red fabric that has a strange weed motif.  Certainly, there are some odd weeds growing along the bayou banks in our area, so it seem fitting for this quilt.

Eventually Rory finished school and married.  I wanted to give them a quilt for their wedding and asked Meggan, his fiance, to choose from those that were already finished.  She was immediately drawn to this one. How fitting, I thought, that she would appreciate the quilt that was a result of his work.  Not long after they were married, Rory made a bed for their new home and Meggan gladly put the quilt on display on their bed.  She decorated using the red from the quilt.  The result is a warm, beautiful master bedroom that is a perfect combination of his work, her tastes, and their new life.

Travelogue or memoir? You decide.

Three Weeks with My Brother
Click the title to go directly to the website.

My current read is becoming one of my favorites.  I'm a huge Nicholas Sparks fan and have read most of his books.  My first was The Notebook and most recent was The Last Song.  In fact, looking at his official website, I think I've read them all.  Certainly I have them all in the library.  Most are books that I purchased, read, then donated.  Can't have a high school library without some of the current bestsellers sitting on the shelves!   If you haven't picked up a book by Sparks, you need to give him a read.  If you have even a piece of a heart thumping in your chest, you'll find yourself tearing up at least once.

As for Three Weeks, I'm about half way through.  Though I normally devour books, I've decided to savor this one just a little and am forcing myself to read it slowly.  The travelogue portion of each chapter is fascinating but I am especially enjoying the personal stories.   It's interesting to learn about a favorite author.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Some of my early quilts

This first quilt is one I made back in 2005.  I'd made a quilt for my sister for Christmas and loved the look that resulted from fussy cutting the Dresden plate sections.  I decided to make a quilt for myself in my favorite color, burgundy.  I picked up all the fabrics at Ginger's Quilt Shop in Lafayette.  The beautiful tulips in the burgundy fabrics make a wonderful pattern when fussy cut and quilted following the resulting lines.  I hand quilted the medallions and machine quilted the rest by stitching in the ditch on my home sewing machine.  That was back when I had a Brother Disney machine.  It still amazes me that I was able to so do much on that small little machine. Although the quilt is now six years old and beginning to fade, it hangs out on the back of the sofa and is often pulled down for movies and sleep-overs, especially when the grandkids come by.  They know it's okay to use this quilt but to keep it off the floor.  Cotton will mark it as soon as a thread touches the floor!

This little quilt is one that I made for a church fair raffle when we were raising money to refurbish the stained windows.  The center section--cross, chalice, bread, grapes--are my designs.  The rest of the quilt comes directly from one of the windows.  I taped paper up and traced the leading in the window.  Then transferred it to fabric.  Of course, the windows are much more beautiful than the quilt, but it's not a bad effort for someone who never made a stained quilt before.

This one is from a postcard that came in the mail.  I enlarged the picture using a projector.  It was my practice quilt when I was trying to figure out how to make a stained glass quilt for the church fair.

This last one is a little sports-themed quilt using the triple Irish chain pattern.  I wanted to make a one in yellow and blue.  Once I saw the outcome, I had to add the sports pictures and make it for a little boy.

There are quite a few more, but this will do for now.  Thanks for looking.  Let me know how you like them.  I really enjoy getting feedback from my friends.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Out of the Crayon Box: Color in the lines

Out of the Crayon Box
One of my latest creations is this quilt I worked on while helping my father to care for my mom who was dying of terminal cancer and Alzheimer's Disease.  It was a difficult, depressing job and I would not change one minute of dirty diapers, spoon feedings, three hour trips to Shreveport, exposure to radiation because she couldn't understand enough to sit or lie through x-rays, PET scans, and other tests, and whatever else the doctors could dream up.  Needless to say, I was in dire need of some bright colors and happy thoughts when I walked into my studio. 
lower left corner
lower right corner
I had been thinking of creating a quilt that looked like plaid using the colors in the fabric.  As I often do with queen sized quilts, I also wanted to add a wide border of flowers around the blocks.  I wanted the quilt to also be a study in color.  A way for me to look at color differently.  As I began working to figure out how to build blocks, I decided to include primary and secondary colors.  The blocks could be repeated to forms the plaid look.  I drew the lines and filled them in with crayons I borrowed from the grand-children.  While doing so, it occurred to me that I could put primary colors in the vertical lines and secondary colors in the horizontal lines.  Then the intersections could be tertiary colors.   What a great idea!   From there, the going got easier.  I determined how wide each line would be and jotted down the dimensions of each fabric piece.  Using this map, I cut the fabric and sewed a test block.  And it worked!

Yeah!  Now I really got busy cutting and sewing.  It's really amazing to watch as something you've designed builds up from one block to enough blocks for a queen-sized quilts.  Of course, this process may seem fast but it took weeks as I wasn't able to work on the quilt every day.  But it was a welcome relief from the sadness in my life as I watch mom get sicker and sicker.  As she became more and more sick, she also lost more and more of herself, which was even sadder for me.  It was as if every day she lost a little bit of who she was.  Not just her memories were gone, but also her ability to speak, her ability to perform the most basic of human functions, such as feeding herself, dressing, moving, walking, even sitting after one of us lifted her off the wheelchair or bed was impossible.   A week of tiny losses added up to a big loss and from Sunday to Sunday she might lose a function that we take for granted.  

upper left corner

Back of quilt

Yes, it won a ribbon at our local quilt guild show.


Have Book, Will Travel

So what are you reading lately?  My most recent novel is Jodi Piccult's House Rules.  I picked it up on a whim while shopping one day and red the entire book by the next day.  It's an interesting quick read despite the fact that it's pretty thick.  Not that I'm scared of a thick book--I am, after all, a librarian who's read Anna Karenina, Captains and the Kings, and several other 1000+ page books.  So, little ole House Rules wasn't so scary.  It was good and I found that the more I read, the more I became invested in Jacob's story.  Piccult's story is about a teenager with Asperger's Syndrome who is accused of murdering his social tutor.   Piccult gives great insight into living with Asperger's Snydrome and does so from the point of view of Jacob, his brother and single mother, and the police officer investigating the case.  After only a few pages, I found Jacob's character both sympathetic and confusing.  He is very likable but it's difficult to follow his line of thinking.  Like many with Asperger's Jacob answers questions literally and in his stream-of-conscious thoughts, he alludes to knowing more but doesn't actually give that information.  I recommend it highly to students who are mature readers and not afraid of the length of the novel.

Reading for me is an ongoing interest and part of my job.  Since I'm teaching a class, I've been reading several short stories with a new purpose.  I read with a pen and highlighter so that I can highlight important passages and jot notes in the margins to easily point them out when lecturing in class.  I've found it more helpful to have the story and my notes on the same page.  

So what are you reading now?  Share your favorite short story or most recent novel in your comments.   

Monday, January 17, 2011

Welcome to Fleur de Lis Quilt Studio

A recent post on the Etsy community forums asked Etsy sellers for pictures of the place where they create the handmade items that have become so popular world-wide.  I began thinking of my studio and thought some people just might be interested in seeing photos and others might like to know how someone ends up with studio for sewing and quilting.
Sewing table with Juki serger and computer.
      If you've read past posts, you already know that I've been a happy seamstress all of my adult life and that I have wonderful memories of sewing as a child and teenager.  Of course, what I called sewing at five or eight years of age is very different from the sewing I've been lucky enough to experience--anything cutting, tying, or stitching counted for sewing when I managed to nick my finger in Ma-ma's old treadle machine.  Making clothing for my boys as they were growing, sewing my sister's wedding dress, or designing a special occasion dress for myself was much closer to what I enjoyed as an adult.

Storage of quilts and Accuquilt Studio in far corner.

Storage below the worktable--notions and small items.
 Then the quilting bug bit me.  I'd made quilts before....heavy, utilitarian, not-very-pretty quilts that were used for years in a drafty, older home.  The first one that I really remember had a patchworked backing of our boys' receiving blankets and the thickest batting I could find.  More than once I had to whipstitch the backing where it split from the tugging and pulling that three boys put it through.  But it was warm and cuddly and soft.  And we washed it on a regular basis because the boys dragged it throughout the house and into the yard for "camping."  That quilt may not have been the one that got me started in quilting, but it is the one that was loved  the most.  Later, when the boys were older and I had begun
Work table: huge 6 feet wide by 9 feet long made from three small tables.
The mess!  It's supposed to be storage of everything not fabric.
working full-time, I found quilting to be a fabulous way to create, design, play and sew.  I simply need to sew some days, the way I need to read, or eat, or pray.  In fact, on some days, the only reading I do is about sewing or quilting, and praying comes very easy while sitting at my machine or making stitches by hand.

Sewing station.
An old trunk that my dad gave me.  I use it to store completed Etsy items.
Cone thread storage on wall.  

Innova long arm, with peg board storage behind.

Istarted out rather small--a closet at the end of the hallway right in the middle of the boys' rooms.  A nice desktop provided space for my machines, and shelves above provided space for storage.  As the boys grew up and left home, I took over their bedrooms.  Eventually, I'd taken over half of the house.  At the time, the plant where my husband worked was shutting down to move south.  A garment factory that made clothing for children, much of the extra fabrics and thread were put up for sale to employees at very reduced prices.
Fabric storage.  Anyone feel the need to come organize?

 Richard bought both fabric and thread for me, and I stored it in bedroom closets and in boxes under beds.  Not long after the plant closed, my mother-in-law decided that since she didn't sew anymore, she would clean out her stash of fabrics.  She had also worked at the plant and had bought up quite a bit of fabric and thread. Every spare room was filled to capacity and the closets were straining to hold in the boxes and piles.

Close-up of worktable.  This is the large area meant to hold quilts in progress.
Some of the NICU gowns that I've been working on are in the photo.

Richard laughed that he would get pushed out of the house if something didn't give.  So, he gave.  He, with help from our grown boys and his brother, closed in the carport at the back of the house.  A double carport can make a sizable studio.  Richard added windows as I requested and built in shelves and worktables.  There was lots of room, space to spare, in fact.  But I needed and desperately wanted a long arm.  So that was our next step.  It single-handedly filled in every inch of space that was open.   Now we're talking about adding on!

Small jars of vintage lace and buttons from my mom.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Darling Nieces and other stuff

Yes, I do have a wonderful, darling niece, who happens to be a talented young photographer.  I got back my Etsy items along with a CD of photographs ready to go online.  Stacy Burkhart Photography, located in Broussard, La., has had about 80 or so purses, hairbows and other small accessories.  
Stacy has been using much of her "spare" time photographing them because my abilities as a photographer are limited to fuzzy, out-of-focus, dark photos.  I've tried editing them but that often makes the photograph worse, causing glarish, washed out areas.  So, I finally decided to ask Stacy for help.  Having just finished yet another photography class, she was very willing to hone her skills on a variety of objects.  Naturally, I had specific photos in mind since I want to sell these items in my Etsy shop.  Stacy did a wonderful job and I am more than pleased with the results.  Here are a few of the 80+ items that she photographed.  Her blog address is   

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Finding Inspiration

Where do you find inspiration?  I thought it would be fun to start a list.  Yes, I'm a list maker.....I make lists for everything.  Actually, I like to start a list....then lose the list.  It works.  Not as well as perhaps making a complete list in a fancy notebook that is always at one's fingertips but better than not trying at all to retain some of the stuff that's important in life.  So here's to the Inspiration List with an addendum of trying to keep track of it.

I find Inspiration in
flowers of any kind, including flowers in a field of weeds
a baby's smile
a funny laugh
trees with leaves and without
rock gardens (even though I don't really like them)
cacti flowers and shapes
books, movies, music I like
old photographs
poetry that I've written

You might find Inspiration in
anything Christmas or Easter or other holiday
tiles arranged in beautiful patterns
Classical Music
anything from long ago
vintage finds

 I love to find Inspiration in
stories from my childhood
my grandchildren
pretty fruit
ribbon and lace
old houses
wrought iron lace

Where do YOU find inspiration?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Stained Glass Quilts

Stained glass quilt I made in 2007.
In the fall I decided to contact about teaching an online course.  According to their website, QuiltCampus
"is an online campus where you can take a variety of classes from quilt teachers, meet quilt students, share experiences, ask questions, and share photos of class projects - all from the comfort of home. Our teachers and students come from all over the world. Taking classes online is easy and fun and one of the bonuses is the people you will meet.
Online classes are similar to correspondence courses, but with a twist - you can converse with the teacher and with other students through a forum!" (
 I've been interested in teaching quilting since I gave a presentation for my local quilt guild, the Cotton Quilters Guild.  I am already a high school teacher with 20 years of experience, so it should be an easy jump from teaching English to teaching quilting.  After applying for a teaching position and discussing
their needs, I believe QuiltCampus (QC) to be a good fit for me.  They've since asked me to teach the process for making a stained glass quilt.  I had to delay the course, however, when mom became so sick.  The staff at QC was very understanding and suggested that I take all the time I need to mourn her loss.   Feeling that I now need to keep busy and be creative, I decided to work on a stained glass quilt to decide whether or not the idea in my head will work for this course.  Once the quilt is completed, I'll send photos of it to QC, and they will decide whether its something that will be of interest to their students.  Then comes the fun part, designing and writing the course.  Everything is sent to QC and they put the course online and do all the technical work.  I promise to be available to discuss the pattern, directions, etc. with students on certain days through either a forum or email.  Since I'm now teaching a dual enrollment English class through videoconferencing at work, this will prove to be an interesting addition to my teaching experience.
Stained Glass quilt I made for a church raffle in 2008.
In preparing to make this quilt, I've been looking at photos of stained glass in my fine arts books and online.  I've also spent maybe just a little too much time really analyzing the windows while at mass.  I have made a couple of stained glass quilts, and understand the basic idea of how they are constructed.  I have a plan for stippling the quilt before adding the black "leading" in the hopes that this will stabilize the quilt and keep it from being too loose.  The quilt I started today is almost there....I've placed the fabrics and begin the stippling.  Once that is completed, I'll add the black bias for the leading and then bind the quilt.  We'll see how well this works.  I'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Danger in the Studio

What are some of the dangerous things that are waiting for you in your sewing space?  Rotary cutter left open? Straight pins on the floor? Extension cords across walking paths?  Imagine that you have all these dangerous situations and a husband who is the family "safety man."  Yep, that's what he calls himself!

It's funny, sure, but then you may not have a darling of a man pointing out every danger lying in wait.  He likes to drop in and visit while I'm sewing.  Oh, I like the visits.  He is the best guy at setting machines and can answer any problem or question I have.  After all, he worked at a major garment plant for 25 years and was the maintenance supervisor for most of those years.  So there's probably nothing in my sewing studio that he can't fix or make better.  But you've probably heard that for every positive there's a negative.  Well, seeing danger as it lurks is my husband's specialty--so he really IS the family safety man.  He is also capable of driving me crazy or maybe just a little insane.  I know, he's only looking out for my safety, and who doesn't want that, but the truth is it can get just a little old.  I tested him recently.  He came into the studio on Sunday afternoon and I did my best not to shush him.  Instead, I counted the dangers he found in a ten minute time span.  (Sorry, I couldn't handle any longer than that.)  Curious about his findings?

Here's his list.  Note that some of these issues are dangers to objects not people, but he will point out that damaging objects means they don't work as well, cost money to replace, or may pose a danger to me as a result.
  1.  doors unlocked
  2.  shears near edge of work table
  3.  rotary cutter open
  4.  electrical cords in walking path
  5.  standing on movable object for reaching fabric
  6.  long-arm not "locked down" (it can move freely)
  7.  heavy objects on high shelves
  8.  too many electronics plugged into the same outlet
  9.  pins and needles on floor
10.  lit candles
11.  waste basket in middle of floor
12.  quilts stacked haphazardly on frame
13.  old chest with broken, jagged metal straps

Now, I could probably have defended myself for almost every one of these dangers, but why bother?  He just fixes the problem, or tells me how to, and moves on to the next danger.  I learned long ago to let him be till I've had enough then threaten to put him out.  Usually that resolves the litany.....he just switches from telling me to fixing....and there is an advantage to having someone come in and straighten up!

So now, what about your workspace?  Do you have a few dangers lurking?  If so, do you have someone fixing them?  I don't worry about my dangers so much, but I do have a safety guy coming in on a regular basis.  You might want to take a second look at your space, then fix any problems you discover.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

NICU Gown Tutorial

Today I started 2011 out right--I cut and began sewing preemie gowns for the hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) where our little granddaughter was born last year.  At 2 lbs. 4 ozs. Catherine had a very small chance at life, but the caring doctors and nurses at Women's and Children in Lafayette nursed her to the magic number of 4.5 lbs!  She was so tiny at birth that touching her was scary for us and distressing for her little body because at 26 weeks she was not ready for the world.  Today she is a healthy 20 pound one-year old who is trying to go places by crawling, scooting, and furniture cruising.  She doesn't walk but she wants to.  

July 2013 update: Caki is a beautiful 3 year old able to keep up with her peers and her little sister, Sophie.  She loves to read, play outside, and swim.

April 2015 update: Caki is now 5 years old.  She is growing fast, is almost through her first year of school (pre-K) and is a happy, delightful little girl, a joy and a blessing!

After a few weeks of wearing a diaper only, Caki was finally able to handle being touched and we visited to see our little darling wearing a tiny little handmade cotton gown!  I remember crying because she finally seemed human.  We had held our breath for weeks before her birth in prayer that she could hold on until birth.  Then we held our breath in prayer that she would respond to the highly sophisticated neonatal care that Women's and Children's provided.  The afternoon that we saw her for the first time dressed in a little shirt was, for me, the turning point of our ordeal.  Although we had prayed for her, visited, snapped photos and stood looking at her tiny little hands, her small limbs and torso, it all seemed very dream-like.  

On my second visit after seeing her dressed, I asked a nurse to let me copy a pattern from one of the gowns.  She was extremely helpful, finding a pen and some paper, then handing me a gown so small that I was able to draw the pattern onto one sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 piece of paper.  I made a few little shirts and dropped them off a week or so later.  Since then, I've donated a couple of packages.  It's not a great deal, I am aware.  But I think about the mothers and grandmothers who see their babies in tiny diapers, backs and stomachs exposed, and remember the feeling and emotion I felt when I saw Caki dressed in her little preemie shirt.  And I think about how I can help just a little every now and then.  I pull fabric from my stash and zip a few together and say a prayer for each child who will wear the little shirts I've made.  

2016 version of pattern--copy and enlarge so that it fills a standard 
8 1/2 X 11 sheet of copy paper. Each gown needs two 
pieces of fabric and is reversible when complete
I thought that some of you might be interested in making a few of these little gowns to donate to your local NICU.  Included below the pattern is a brief tutorial showing how I made the ones showing above.
Step 1-- With right sides together, sew all around the bottom 
starting at one top edge and going all the way to the other top edge.

Step 2--Sew the two top edges from the front to the armhole.
Step 3--Sew around the armholes completely.  
This will leave the back neck open.
Step 4--Turn right side out and press all sewn edges.
Step 5--Fold raw edges of back neck and pin.  
Stitch entire seam.
Completed stitch on back neck.
Step 6--Ready to add Velcro adhesive dots.  Close the 
gown as shown and place two dots down front.
Final steps, add Velcro adhesive dots to close the shoulders.  
I stitch am X on all Velcro dots with my sewing machine 
so they are not lost when the gowns are washed.
Contact me via email at if you have any questions.  Good luck and God bless.