Knitting and Quilting Puzzling Pinks

November 16th, 2015

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

At 42″ x 31″, Puzzling Pinks is among my largest wall hangings. That’s a lot of knitting! Luckily, at the Ultimate Sweater Machine, I can crank out the stockinette stitch in record time.

Knitting for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

As usual, I knitted a varied, shaded fabric by changing yarn every one or two rows—easy on the USM. With the green yarns sorted into groups of gray greens, yellow greens, and plain old green greens, I hoped to knit the impression of sun and shadow. There’s even a little blue for the sky in this garden of pink flowers.

Knitting Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

To create the patchwork squares of green background, I tried a little something different, cutting squares from fusible interfacing first, fusing them onto the knitted fabric second, and finally cutting them out. This worked pretty well.

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

My quilting friends look forward to summers, because we get together in Dublin, Texas, for a three-day quilting retreat. Of course we sew, but it’s also three-day talk and laugh fest with yummy food and fun games.

My goal was to have Puzzling Pinks pieced and ready to quilt in time for our get-together. Managed. Quilting the piece took several hours, but this fun group of women helped the time pass quickly.

With three days of mostly uninterrupted sewing, a person can get a lot done. We were all very productive. By the end of our retreat, Puzzling Pinks was quilted, labeled, and bound.

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Crocheting Flowers for Puzzling Pinks

November 11th, 2015

Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Pink! It’s my most favorite color. It’s a good thing too, because the Puzzling Pink wall hanging is covered with dozens of pink flowers and I crocheted them all. And appliqued them.

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

These softly variegated flowers, made with Prism’s Kid Slique, are adapted from the Russian Picot Daisy pattern in Crochet Garden. Such luscious yarn!

Also from Crochet Garden, I made Anemones in Aunt Lydia’s No. 10 crochet cotton, Begonias in a Spud & Chloe yarn, and Tabby Ovals in a long discontinued yarn.

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

The long-stemmed buds are from the Valentine Roses pattern in Cute Crochet World.

Crocheted flowers for Suzann Thompson's Puzzling Pink quilt

Powerful Motivation

November 9th, 2015

Suzann Thompson's knitted quilts at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council

Need motivation to make a few wall hangings? Simply agree to show them in a quilt exhibit or two, scheduled for a few months away. Be sure to note how large you said they would be, so you can make them accordingly.

That’s what I did. The result? I’ve been working diligently, consistently, and pretty much exclusively on wall-hangings for the last six months. Tuesday, November 3rd, was the deadline for the last of the quilts. I did it! I met the deadlines!

The quilts in the photo are at the Cross Timbers Fine Arts Council River North Gallery, Stephenville, TX, until December 12. If you’re near Stephenville, please drop by and see them plus dozens more quilts made by members of the Town & Country Quilt Guild.

The other result of intense wall-hanging activity? I suffered from “wall-hanging eyes.” That’s when you have been sewing for so long, your eyes are focused at sewing machine distance or hand-sewing distance, and it takes a while to refocus them to see the real world.

And when I refocused last Tuesday afternoon, I saw that my house needed cleaning, papers needed filing, and blogs needed updating. That’s the plan for the next two weeks, before I start the next round of wall hangings. They’re not committed to an exhibit. Yet.

TextileFusion in Portland, Oregon

August 17th, 2015

Finally, finally, finally the Quilt! Knit! Stitch! show, with its workshops and markets and exhibits came to Portland, Oregon, last week. The quilts and fiber arts were stunningly beautiful, as usual. And this time someone was exhibiting knitted, embellished quilts. Me!

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

Next chance to see the TextileFusion exhibit is at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, October 29 through November 1, 2105. Come and talk to me there!

For more information, please visit

TextileFusion art quilt exhibit at Quilt! Knit! Stitch! 2015

Throwback Thursday–Vintage Crochet Cotton

August 6th, 2015

vintage Bucilla crochet cotton

On the first day of the Campbell-Neumann sale in Austin, we would already be in line with dozens of like-minded shoppers, waiting for the doors to open. Misters Campbell and Neumann liquidated estates about four times a year, and any sale included items from three or more families.

Campbell-Neumann was where I found Barbara Walker’s A Treasury of Knitting Patterns for the first time. And it was where I bought a bag of cream-colored vintage Bucilla crochet thread and an old receipt.

1941 receipt from Mayer & Smith, Tyler, Texas
vintage Bucilla crochet cotton label

Mrs. W. H. Yarbrough bought two “cro cot” from Mayer & Schmidt (Tyler, Texas) for 70 cents on April 2, 1941. I can’t tell from the receipt if the cotton she bought was the cotton in the bag, because there were at least ten 800 yard hanks. Maybe she bought two more, because she was following instructions to “Purchase sufficient of this color at one time to complete your article, making sure that it is all of one dye lot number as the next dye lot of this color may differ slightly in shade.”

Some things don’t change.

Lampshade knitted with vintage crochet cotton

Nearly 45 years after Mrs. Yarbrough bought the cotton, I used a double strand to knit a lampshade (pattern from Barbara Walker). Now, another 30 years later, we still use this lamp and lampshade in our house.

I also knitted a 3/4 sleeve, v-shaped-neckline-in-the-back top, using the “Oriel” pattern. My dad took a picture of me wearing it in 1985.

I’ve changed since then, but the sweater is as cute as ever, so my daughter Eva wears it.

Oriel pattern knitted vintage cotton sweater

When is a Wall Hanging Really Finished?

July 13th, 2015

Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

“The painting isn’t finished until you label the slides,” said Gay Fay Kelly, a painter and my former business partner about 20 years ago. Artists sent slides when they entered their work in juried shows or contacted potential buyers or galleries.

In this digital age, we don’t send slides much anymore, thank goodness! So after the last decorative stitch of a wall hanging is embroidered and the last button sewn in place, when is it REALLY finished?

Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

First, at the back of the work, I attach a 4-inch hanging sleeve. To hang the quilt, you slide a rod through the sleeve, which puts a layer of fabric between the rod and the quilt itself.

At home, I attach wire or monofilament to the ends of the rod and hang the whole assembly from a nail. If you use a wooden rod, you can install screw-eyes to the ends and hang the piece with nails through the eyelets.

Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

I often machine-stitch the title of the work, a copyright date, and a by-line into the quilt’s backing fabric. Mama Lion’s backing fabric was too colorful and busy for successful sewn-in information, so I attached a small hand-written label. Some of my quilting friends make beautiful labels. So far, mine are plain.

 Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

My brother Van turned me on to American Textile Recycling (, so now I save all fabric scraps and trimmed yarn ends for recycling. Our family has recycled for ages, and so I was glad to find a place to take old linens, clothing, shoes, and fabric scraps.

Now, part of my personal finishing routine is gathering the scraps, yarn bands, and empty plastic thread spools and other containers, and delivering them to their respective recycling sites.

 Mama Lion wall hanging finishing

Finally, it’s picture time. The west side of the house usually has bright shade that is perfect for photography. At the moment, this is my photo studio–can you see the tripod at the left? I’m working on a better way to hang the quilts. A ladder isn’t really the best.

Today’s equivalent of labeling the slides is cropping the digital photos and saving them in various formats and resolutions for print and web-sharing. When that is done, the wall hanging is truly finished.

Mama Lion

July 12th, 2015

Mama Lion knitted, quilted wall hanging

This wooly mammal quilt is in honor of my TextileFusion exhibit’s sponsor for the 2015 Quilt! Knit! Stitch! Show in Portland, Oregon in August. Lion Brand Yarn Company supports textile arts through sponsorships of knitting and crochet events, as well as supporting projects of individual textile artists.

When I began designing knitting and crochet projects professionally in the 1990s, Lion Brand bought several of my designs. Since then, I’ve used Lion Brand yarns in many designs for magazines, for my crochet books, and for personal projects. At the Lion Brand Yarn Studio in New York, I’ve been privileged to sign books and present programs about crochet, writing, and designing.

For Mama Lion, I knitted with Lion Brand Yarn Company’s Amazing, Cotton-Ease, Fishermen’s Wool, Vanna’s Sequins, Wool-Ease, LB Collection Superwash Merino and Angora Merino.

Lion Brand has lent support to my design and artistic career. I hope I have brought some business their way, too. Thank you, Lion Brand.

Antelope Horns: The Final Lap

June 2nd, 2015

The last post about the Antelope Horns wall hanging ended with me sewing the patches to a foundation cloth. Here’s how they looked, compared to the photo, once I finally finished the foundation piecing.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

Next step: quilting with a regular presser foot, because I can control the stitching better.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

Now for my favorite part: embellishing. First, I outlined all the petals with a widely-spaced buttonhole stitch.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

For each flower, I crocheted five water-drop shapes. I laid them on the photo, to see how long the five stems needed to be, and how to attach them to a crocheted white center.

In the photo below, three of the flowers already have violet centers attached, but one shows the provisional white center. Though you can’t see it in the finished wall hanging, the white center adds dimension to the piece by lifting the violet centers a little higher than the horns.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

By laying out the horns on the photo, I could figure out how to finish the end of each horn, by crocheting taller or shorter stitches in the second round of stitching. Some of the horns are seen from the side, so their final row is different from the horns we see straight-on.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

I embroidered the purple stripes along the sides of the horns, which partially appliqued the horns in place. The dark violet center had lots of cream and light green embroidery. I sewed fuzzy five-petal flowerets to the centers before appliqueing them over the provisional white centers.

The button phase of any wall hanging is the best part of embellishing. I poured the buttons from our big jar, gleefully sorted through them, and chose 14 or 15 excellent candidates. I arranged them on the wall hanging and…oh. They didn’t look good. Aw, man!

Every button in the leafy section stood out like a sore thumb. The colors matched well. I even matched light swirls in dark buttons with the appliqued netting in the background. But they stood proud and a little too shiny. They distracted from the flowers.

In the flower half of the wall hanging, I managed to place four buttons. Their height matches the height of the applique, so they blend in better. After sewing on the buttons and attaching the hanging sleeve, the wall hanging was done.

Antelope Horns wall hanging

Hurray! On to the next project.

Throwback Thursday—Eva’s Button Cloth

May 14th, 2015

We played with polymer clay a lot in the late 1990s. It was a great way to pass the time during the frequent rainy, gloomy days in Sheffield.

The compelling thing about polymer clay is that after you model a project, you cure it in the oven at a fairly low temperature to make it permanent. The colors stay true, it stays the same size. You get what you make. I wish every kid (and lots of adults) could experience the joy of it.

During these times, I designed polymer clay projects for magazine articles and for my first book. I made lots of buttons, so four or five-year-old Eva did, too. She used the different tools and cutters, and sometimes repurposed my millefiori off-cuts. I made this cloth to showcase her buttons, and it hung on her wall for years.

Two things stand out in my memory of those days. As we worked one day, Eva asked, “Mama, what if I become better at this than you are?”

And the other was when she finished the large button in this detail picture. It has nine or ten sew-through holes. “Mama, it’s going to take you a long time to sew on this button, because it has so many holes.”

Visions Art Museum Members’ Challenge, Met!

May 7th, 2015

From the Visions Art Museum website:

The mission of Visions Art Museum is to create an international community of quilt and textile artists, collectors and the public through exhibitions, education, and engaging programs that increase the appreciation of quilts, textiles and fiber as fine art…

Visions Art Museum: Contemporary Quilts + Textiles is a program of Quilt San Diego, a non-profit arts organization founded in 1985 to promote contemporary quilt making as fine art.

Sunshine through Fog art quilt

It sounds pretty good, but what drew me in and caused me to part with hard-earned dollars for the membership fee was: Exhibition Opportunities!

Visions Museum offers frequent members’ challenges, themed online exhibits, and juried exhibitions—in other words, exactly what I spend a lot of time looking for.

The challenge pieces are small, giving quilters the chance to show their work without spending weeks on a project. The quilts are all for sale, with half of the sale price going to the museum, and half to the artist. Now that is a deal.

The current members’ challenge was to make a 10″ wide x 14″ tall quilt with the theme “Abstract.” Over 60 quilters answered the call, and our quilts are on display (and for sale) at the museum from April 18 – July 5, 2015.

Mine is called Sunshine through Fog, and see if you can find a teeny-tiny photo of it here.

Sunshine through Fog is pieced from fabric knitted on my Ultimate Sweater Machine. I like to shade colors when I knit, like the black-gray-white shading for this piece. This is what the fabric looked like after blocking. There’s a lot of yellow, because more small quilts with a similar look are on the drawing board.

This photo shows the quilt top pieced and pinned to batting and backing, ready to quilt. But wait…

Recently I discovered that a layer of tulle holds the unruly cut edges of the knitting in place very nicely. After consulting with a long-time associate (my teenage daughter), I added a layer of silvery-white tulle to the top, cutting out the spaces over the yellow areas.

And it came with a bonus! The tulle makes the piece look foggier.