Saturday, December 13, 2008

Sensational Stars and Circular Borders

New as yet unnamed Star!

It has been a very busy fall with many quilting trips. The final trip was to Paducah, KY, where I was filming online classes for West Kentucky Community and Technical College. This time, I was filming two sessions, one "Sensational Stars", and the other "Designing Circular Borders". Last spring, I filmed my first session, "The Goose is Loose". You can access the classes by visiting

Once you click on the site below, click on Course Catalog and then Quilting. If you find a course you are interested in, click the Enroll button. You can enroll, pay, and complete the class all on line. Because WKTC is an accredited college, you will receive college credit for these classes.

For these two classes I decided to make double use of one quilt. The center star was shown in the first session and the borders in session number 2. I also designed 3 additional circular borders that also fit onto the center star. The quilt, shown above, is nameless as of today, but I hope inspiration strikes me soon, or you have a great idea for a name. I used two different hand-dyed fabric gradation pack from Starr Designs which I think really make this quilt sparkle. I used the 10 fat-quarter packs of Maui Magic and Cabana Cools.

If you have a suggestion for a name for the new design, please let me know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Valley of the Mist Quilters

It was a small, but enthusiastic group that met on Sunday, Nov. 10 to explore the "Goose is Loose", designing and piecing free-form shapes. We met at the local Temecula Bernina dealership, where the shopowner stayed open for us. What we didn't know is that the local church was meeting in the next shop over. They liked to sing, and play the guitar, especially the base. It wasn't long before the whole class moved out to the front counter for our impromptu instruction. Here are just a few photos that I took that day.Rita Dominguez understood the design and stitching concepts quite well, but she really want to learn how to make three-dimensional flowers -- so that's what we did!
Rosie Caudillo, who had driven all the way from San Diego to take the class, brought show and tell to the workshop. She used teeeny little hexagons to create this free form tree in autumn colors.
Gloria Bachmann quickly caught on to the drawing part, and completed her design in record time. She also managed to finish the geese and begin assembling the parts of her design.
Abi Beaty's deisgn was based on a golf course, her husband's favorite sport. I wonder if this will be a gift for him.

A good time was had by all. And, there's just nothing like good, old-fashioned southern California hospitality.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Fallbrook CA Quilter's Guild

This trip to southern Califormia has been delighful. I just finished teaching for the Fallbrook Quilt Guild, where the class selected was Scrumptious Star Stitchery. The focus of this class is the paper foundation piecing techniques that I use to assemble almost all of my designs. The photo above shows program chairman, Elvia Dawson, advising novice quilter, Linda Bustard at the class.
Linda had never done paper foundation piecing before this class so she was excited to finish one section of her star.
Linda's friend and table-mate, Paula Walters, also a novice at foundation piecing, completed one section. Notice the adorable Halloween theme for this project.
Mikey Nail and Ursula Hohous both opted to use fabric kits provided by me for their projects.
Master quillter, Anita Bruce, whipped right through the project, completing half of her star. What an inspiring group they are! It was good fun.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sewing Chair

It all started innocently. Donna, my good friend and creative assistant, commented that my rolly chair didn't roll very well. She said she'd keep her eye out for one at a garage sale. When she arrived at my house today, our regular sewing day, she had words of wisdom, courtesy of Mary Moya. Seems Mary had asked if Donna had ever picked all the crud out of the rolling wheels of her sewing chair. And, then Donna spent much of Sunday afternoon picking at the wheels of her chair.

Today, we picked at the wheels of my chair.
It was ugly! Many tools and sore fingers later, we are proud to report:
The mad cleaning woman, equipped with a can of air and a can of WD40. Never again will this much garbage collect in the wheels of this chair. Next time you're in your sewing room and the wheels don't work so well, think of Mary's words of wisdom.

Show and Tell at Black Hills Quilting Safari

The stars of the Sensational Stars class had much to display at the Saturday evening 'show and tell'. Their instructor was quite proud.
Now, to be fair, students in the 'Goose is Loose' had a lot more designing to do and every quilt top was a unique piece of art.
These are but small samples of the projects they designed in class.
Imagine fellow teacher, Vi Colombe's surprise when each of the students in her lone star class made one extra diamond and then stitched them all together into this interested arrangement!

Black Hills Quilter's Retreat

Ehnthusiasm was the word of the week for the Black Hills Quilters. I don't know when I've seen a more ambitious bunch, except perhaps the Frontera Quilt Guild in Harlingen.
Students designed and stitched up a storm of stars in the Sensational Stars class. When I returned from lunch, there they were sewing. When I stopped by before dinner, they were still there. I think that many sewed all night long!

Evening was for fun festivities, like a good, old-fashioned sing-a-long, lead by conference co-chair, Doris Fritts. The theme of the conference was Quilting Safari, and here she is belting out her quilterly rendition of the Beach Boys hit, "Surfing Safari".

Mount Rushmore

One of the side benefits of teaching for the Black Hills Quilter's Retreat was hanging out with quilting colleague, Sue Nickels. The conference organizers arranged for a lovely afternoon at Mount Rushmore National Monument.
Our guide, Celia, kept telling us that it looked much different than when I saw it as a child. However, although I know that I WAS there, I have no memory of it. My only memory of the Black Hills of South Dakota was throwing up in the car on the winding roads.
Rapid City is a beautiful, small town, and there are statues of many of our past presidents as well as other famous explorers on every street corner in the downtown area. Here, I got to sit right next to Abe Lincoln.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Anova II

It's not very large, only 20" x 20", but this is my newest creation. I called it Anova II because the basic shapes are the same as in the first version. And, the best part is that it just might belong to you. Anova II is a donation quilt for the International Quilt Association. It will be auctioned off in the silent auction at the IQA booth at International Quilt Festival in Houston the last week in October. Check out all the wonderful quilts at the auction. All funds go to support the good work of IQA.

I am nearly done with two more quilts, which is quite exciting. Look for those posts soon.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Hurricanes and Quilting

It came as quite a surprise to me to learn that Hurricane Gustav had caused severe damage to the Baton Rouge region of Louisiana, home to the Swamp Quilters, who had scheduled me to teach at their retreat in Mississippi this week. After all, nothing had appeared on the national
news. So, like most other Americans, I turned my attention to other things, and thought little about the latest storm of 2008, until I received a call from organizer Candy Bergeron. It was only then that I began to understand the fury of Gustav, and the havoc it wreaked on their community. I asked Candy to write an update. Read on for her assessment.
Hello Gail,

The Swamp Quilters postponed the Goose is Loose class scheduled for September due to Hurricane Gustav. Gustav was a significant hurricane in the Baton Rouge area. The winds were clocked at 92 miles per hour and uprooted really big trees. Any tree large enough and close enough to fall on our house is going to be cut down and replaced with a short, stubby tree. Most of our friends are sharpening their chain saws now.

The wind and fallen trees knocked out over 90% of the utilities in the area. We feel fortunate that we were without power for only 10 days instead of the projected 21 days. It is hot here without air conditioning. Most people have generators so they can run fans and their refrigerator. You need gas to run a generator and gas pumps do not function without electricity. There were few gas stations open after the storm and the lines were long.
Our governor, Bobby Jindal, was great! He spent millions of dollars buying generators from other states to run critical services like gas/emergency care/police stations, etc. He also bought tarps to distribute to people with roof damage because FEMA response is too slow to be of any use. He used the National Guard to transport supplies from other states. We, in Louisiana, feel blessed to have a proactive, problem-solving leader and most of us wish he were running for President. Our recovery was faster because of Bobby Jindal.

We also had local flooding after the storm. The water receded from our road after 8 days. During that time we used a boat. The neighbors call our boat the Colyell Queen. Colyell is a nearby bay and our boat is as ugly as the African Queen. With the flooding the wild things come out of the swamp. My husband saw something in the dark on the kitchen floor one night. He bent down to pick it up and when it wiggled he realized he had a handful of snake. He can yell like a girl!

After the hurricane the cell phones did not work because the towers were down. One of the most difficult parts of recovery is being without outside contact; no email, no phone. I have not received mail in 11 days; no bills!

I attached pictures of my backyard with uprooted, broken trees and later the flooding. Also attached is a picture of the Colyell Queen and the road leading from our subdivision. We were just inconvenienced by the storm. Others suffered real loss. Please keep them and the people dealing with Ike in your prayers.

Things are getting back to normal. A friend is coming over to sew tomorrow and several of us are meeting the day after tomorrow for lunch and a movie. It is great to have friends! We will be in contact about rescheduling the class. It will not be until after hurricane season.

Talk to you soon,

Candy Bergeron

Kudos as well to Southwest Airlines! When I called to cancel my ticket, they immediately and graciously gave me full credit for the ticket to be used any time within the next 12 months - no penalty for changing the ticket!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Squirrel Cake

About a year ago, my daughter Tracy, took a cake decorating class. One thing led to another, and before we knew it she became the supreme cake mistress of New Mexico (Okay, well maybe that is a proud Mom talking!) However, it wasn't long before her cake masterpieces graced many an event. When I asked for a cake for my Labor Day barbeque at the cabin, I had little idea other than a theme of fall. We were all enthralled with the incredible detail to the most minute of elements. Every leaf, flower and acorn was an edible wonder. And, topping it all off was her hand-carved, fat squirrel sitting proudly atop his treasure trove. He must surely have thought that his larder would last until spring. Thank you Tracy! It was a a beautiful gift, amazingly thoughtful, and delicious too.


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Birding Minnesota - Sand Lake

Cousin Anita's cabin sits only a few feet back from the shore of Sand Lake, about an hour north of Grand Rapids, in north-central Minnesota. I rose at dawn that day, to sit quietly with my coffee and watch out over the lake, binoculars by my side. At first all seemed calm as the mist rose from the water's surface. Then, on the horizon a small speck appeared, nothing much really. But, I knew it was a bird, and a large one at that. I lifted my binos for a better view, but before I could focus them, the speck had quickly materialized into a juvenile Bald Eagle flying straight at the picture window. Before I could respond, the young eagle and I were eyeball to eyeball, but only for an instant, before it lifted gracefully to perch in the tree beside the cabin.

Later that morning, Anita and I canoed along the shallows toward the eagle's favorite roost. Although your cannot see the bird perched in the farthest large tree, it was sitting right atop the uppermost branch!

Northern Minnesota is one beautiful land. Hopefully, I will get to return there one day, and explore more of its wonders.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Birding Minnesota - Hawk Ridge

Common Loon. Photo by David Powell

It was a quick trip to Minnesota, just a long weekend, really. My purpose was to join my cousins in saying good-bye to my dear old uncle Lowell McLaughlin, and to go through the possessions that he left for us. However, being a nerdy birder type, I decided to check out what migrants I might find in nearby Duluth and did a quick scan of my "Birder's Guide to Minnesota" by Kim. R. Eckert. It turns out that especially during fall migration, Duluth is a true hot spot. However, the family obligations limited me to a few hours on Saturday morning. Destination Hawk Ridge, in the hopes of seeing a passing raptor or two. I was so excited that I was wide awake at 5 a.m. - way too dark to see anything. I arrived on site at a more reasonable 7:30 a.m. to find the official observer way ahead of me, already set up and counting. What was surprising to me is that, at this site, they document the passing of all migrating birds, including swallows, warblers, and today, a number of passing Common Nighthawks winging their way south. The brisk, chilly wind was straight out of the north, helping them along. I began scanning the skies, looking for that distinctive dot on the horizon that might morph into a bird, and within a few minutes I found, too distant to identify. I brought it to the attention of the observer as I detailed its progress. As I watched, I continued to decribe the vision calmly, until I suddenly blurted out, "It's a duck!" At least it flew like a duck and looked like a duck -- to me. But the observer, with more experience if northern avifauna responded that it was a loon. "A Loon! What a wonder! I've never before seen a loon in flight! Only a few times, I've seen distant loons on a lake. I know that they migrate and that they do fly, but it was a whole new experience for this southern birder! And, the loon gave us quite a show, flying directly overhead, giving all of us a good look at its plumage. I'm sure those hardy northerners must have thought that I was a loon-atic with all my excited antics. Next time you have the opportunity to be in Minnesota during spring or fall, check out this incredible viewing site. Oh, and we did see some raptors too: Bald Eagles, a Sharp-shinned Hawk, a Red-tailed Hawk, and a Merlin. All in all, a wonderful morning, but way too short.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

New Quilt by Lindy Filz

Hi Gail,

I took your Goose is Loose class in Mar/April 2008 at the Empty Sools seminar in Asilomar. Attached is the quilt I just finished from that class, inspired by 2 cute little kittens we adopted. Thanks for the inspiration and lessons on color and value. My quilting will never be the same!

Lindy Filz
Blacksburg, VA

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Between Storms

Frontera Quilt Guild Class - Sensational Stars!

Hurricanes were a major influence on my recent trip to the Lone Star state; the birding mecca of Harlingen my destination, and quiltmaking my purpose for being there. A little storm known as Dolly, only a category 2, didn’t even set off alarm bells in my head for, after all, surely this minuscule hurricane must be little more than a strong thunderstorm. My first inkling of a problem at hand came via the telephone. Program Chairwoman, Jan Beaman, called to ask if I would share her home for the duration as there were NO available hotel rooms in the lower Rio Grande Valley. Hmmm! Perhaps the baby hurricane was more worrisome than I thought.

As my flight winged its way south from San Antonio, I began to notice increasingly large swaths of water, flooded fields, roads, and even rural ranch homes surrounded by muddy moats. My hostess greeted me with thanks for going ahead with the trip given the circumstances. I, in return, thanked her for the offer of her home for the next few days, beginning to better understand the challenges associated Dolly’s aftermath. “Our workshop space had a little water in it, but it wasn’t too bad. We aired it out, and worked there all day yesterday with open doors. I don’t think the smell will be too noticeable,” the apologetic Jan explained.

Then, there were the streets, or rather the sides of them. Each curb was stacked human-head-high with branches, leaves, and other storm detritus. Backyard fences lay drunkenly astride alleyways, prone where the storm had tossed the twisted timbers. My planned birding adventure might be curtailed too, another victim on Dolly’s wrath.

But, the Texas ladies, sturdy and resilient to the core, showed up for class just as if it were just another summer day, ready to design and sew. And, sew they did, with remarkable aplomb, laughing along with their instructor, as each new concept was introduced. What I had never before experienced, though, was the amazing productivity of the Frontera Quilt Guild. At the conclusion of Sunday’s class, students were about as far along as expected, with completed designs, and a little completed stitching.

Monday was my big birding adventure, under the capable and cheerful leadership of locals Judy and Viva. Stop number one revealed none of the Red-crowned Parrots at their normal roost. A huge tree lay across the road, possibly signaling an end to this roost site. Then it was off to a flooded resaca, birding in Judy’s personal wilderness of a back yard, and to Resaca de las Palmas, the newest state park, not yet officially open. Groove-billed Anis awaited at the trail entrance, an indicator of some of the wonders of this refuge. However, the wonder soon turned to misery by black clouds of mosquitos swarming each human body. Maybe that’s why the anis were hanging out at the entrance where there was a little more breathing room. The bloodthirsty little buggars just followed us right back to the car, and about 40 of them climbed right in with us. Some serious swatting enlivened the drive to Sabal Palm Grove, where there were still plenty of mosquitos, but at a more tolerable level. Turns out that hurricanes are good for mosquitos, with all the flooded ground providing ample breeding grounds. I wonder if these little pests are capable of laying eggs, hatching, and morphing into biting adults in less than 20 minutes. Sabal Palm Grove was all that I had hoped for, and it even produced a life bird, a Yellow-green Vireo.

After lunch, we proceeded to South Padre Island and the World Birding Site: The Boardwalk, however, our walk ended before we even set foot onto the famous birding area. Much of the railing was lying on the marsh grasses, although the base seemed sturdy enough. A quick turn around revealed luxury beachfront hotels with gaping holes, with signs of destruction obvious throughout the island.

The big surprise came Monday night, at the Frontera Quilt Guild General Meeting. While I was busy birding, the ladies were stitching away. All but one student, showed up at the meeting with a finished product, a first! Kudos to this enthusiastic and energetic bunch.

Now, those of us that live in the desert don’t think much about hurricanes. While I was aware of the second baby storm, Eduoard, swirling across the Gulf of Mexico, it never entered my mind that our paths might actually cross, but they did. Upon checking in at the airport, the gate attendant announced that there was a weather advisory in Houston due to the arriving storm. A delay was possible. But, I wasn’t worried, because I wasn’t going to Houston; Dallas was my layover location. What didn’t occur to me was that this particular flight had an interim stop – in Houston. Descent into the storm revealed thunderclouds within other clouds. As each cloud boiled up within the stormy cauldron, I began to truly understand the power of this superstorm we call hurricane, even if it was just a little one.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Baby and Me

Cooper's Hawk Nestling
Photo by Sandy Skeba

Yikes! Has is really been three weeks since my last post? All I can say is it has been one heckuva good time and, in truth, time just got away from me. Mostly, it is all about my beloved Cooper's Hawks. June and July are baby months, and the culmination of all that hard work earlier in the season, with hour-upon-hour, and day-after-day spent trudging through the Corrales bosque, searching each cottonwood tree for evidence of an improved or new stick nest. In 2008, I found only 10 active nests, down from an average of 15 the previous years of this study.

Now its reward time, when the young of the year are beginning to explore the world around them. That any survive is truly amazing, for at this age, they have no fear of humans and, in fact, are quite curious about us from the safety of their lofty nursery. They are just beginning to learn to fly, and have yet to discover that one day they will actually have to find their own food. Like avian toddlers or teens, they have yet to discover the harsh reality of life.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Party Bus

Quilt Colorado 2008, held in Estes Park, CO held extra special treats for the faculty. Nestled at the base of Rocky Mountain National Park, this small mountain community is the gateway to high elevation adventures. One among us, Paula Nadelstern, had never before been here, and had never traveled the highest continuous highway in the U.S. Being the enterprising sort, she arranged for a party bus to transport us to the heights of the Rockies, complete with a picnic dinner, a charming bus driver/host, and wonderful company. We were ten strong in all: Sonya Lee Barrington, Sharyn Craig, Carol Doak, Jan Krenz, Marsha McCloskey, Paula Nadelstern, Sue Nickels, Katie Pasquini Masopust, George Scilianon, and yours truly. We saw amazing wildlife, including the majestic Clark's Nutcracker who waited for us at the bus stop, close-up views of elk, and equally stunning scenery. We even found a snow field in which to play. I'd tell you more, but made a pact which is inviolate: "What happens on the party bus, stays on the party bus!" Thank you Paula, for making this magical Summer Solstice evening possible.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

LIfe in the Desert - The Middle of Nowhere!

Photos by Jenny Lisignoli

The little blip of a human in the top photo is yours truly, taken just yesterday when coworker, Jenny, and I were conducting avian surveys at a geologic site in McKinley County, New Mexico. Immediately adjacent to our worksite, we found an abandoned open pit mine that just begged for a photo using a human to demonstrate scale.

During our surveys, we observed many different species of birds, but the most interesting of all were the Turkey Vultures. We observed a few vultures during the morning soaring overhead, and I began to get curious when they all seemed to disappear into one particular canyon. It was as if we were being teased and tested by the big black birds. On one of the final transects, located in the canyon where the birds had disappeared, at the dead end of box canyon, five vultures simultaneously took flight from a cave high in the cliffs.

Below the entrance, which was coated with whitewash, a lone vulture sat perched on a rock. He/she seemed unconcerned with our presence, for how could we possibly have gotten close enough to threaten her. It was as if she were the watch sentinel, standing guard over precious objects hidden out of view? The bird graciously posed for photos, taken by Jenny with a long zoom, as she preened, then stretched, then preened again. Finally, when it was apparent that she was not interested in leaving her lofty perch, we turned our backs and headed out of the canyon. After about thirty feet, I turned back to see only a rock where the bird had been. If it weren't for the photos, I might have thought it was a mirage.

LIfe in the Desert - Ojito Wilderness Area

Memorial Day 2008 was memorable in many ways, mostly for the good friends that share their world with me, and the wonderful places that we explore. On this day, we investigated Ojito Wilderness Area, northwest of Albuquerque. Here, we found fantastical geologic shapes, dinosaur bones, petrified wood, and great photo opportunities. For more fabulous photos, check out my friend, Steve Elkins', website. Once there, click on Ojito Wilderness Area. It was an incredible day. Many thanks to Jan Cummings, geologist, for arranging and leading this trip to a seldom seen jewel of the southwest.