“Some of the most common ways in which a craft object attains meaning for a respondent are through information coded into the object by the maker; through the experience of discovering or acquiring the object; through a personal connection with the maker; and through provenance or projection. The object may acquire meaning at first contact — it may, as one passionate craft curator recently said to me, ‘touch your heart’ — or it may accrue meaning over years of use. However it happens, objects ultimately possess meaning to the extent that they affect or confirm the stories through which a respondent constructs his identity and orders his world. The more central those narratives are, the more meaning the object has.”
— Peter Korn, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman

“Objects carry both history and desire.”
— Priscilla Long, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life

“Anything a hand has touched is for some reason peculiarly charged with personality.”
— Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

Bear Paw quilt block

Bear Paw quilt block

Finished quilt top, ready to hand quilt

Finished quilt top, ready to hand quilt

Quilts represent my love of handmade things.  I chose as my ninth “life object” this unfinished quilt that I am making.  The top has been pieced for several years.  I have yet to sew it to batting and backing and hand quilt it.  I have a good track record of finishing projects like this, so I trust that someday this quilt will be ready to use and display.  The unfinished aspect of this object reminds me that, for me, the creating and making are just as rewarding and pleasurable as owning the finished product.

“The profit of work is in the doing of it.”
— Richard Quinney, Once Again the Wonder

My mother sewed clothes, but she did not quilt.  I don’t remember my grandmothers making quilts either.  But my oldest sister Sandy, a home economics major, was and is passionate about quilting, and over the years she has passed on some skills to me — how to make my own binding, how to miter corners, how to applique using Wonder Under, how to cut and piece using Square-in-a-Square, etc.  So my quilts connect me to my sister, which is very comforting.

Quilting appeals to my frugal nature.  I like the idea of taking scraps and leftover fabric and sewing them together to make something useful and beautiful.

“The act of piecing a patchwork quilt is both utterly practical and powerfully symbolic. It’s an act of reclaiming, saving, mending, and unifying. The result, the quilt itself, solves a basic problem — the need for warmth — but it represents much more: the quiltmaker’s resourcefulness, wishes, and fierce opinions; an attempt to make something beautiful out of what otherwise might have been wasted; and the desire to make some kind of peace.”
— Katherine Bell, Quilting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time

And I like the contemplative nature of quilting, its rhythms — repeating color blocks and stitches — and the lessons it teaches me about taking large projects a step at a time and, in time, accomplishing something quite wonderful.

“When we work with our hands and build something, we learn how to sequence our actions and how to organize our thoughts.”
— Robert Greene, Mastery

“I had often wondered if there was some neurological link between the gentle repetitive action of your arms wielding a broom or your hand stirring a pot and the ideas that filtered through to the front part of your mind; some fusion between physical action and creative ignition.”
— Debra Adelaide, The Household Guide to Dying

“It’s only when what we learn while we’re doing what seems to be basically routine that really counts; how to endure, how to produce, how to make life rich at its most mundane moments.”
— Joan Chittister

Several years ago, I created a private blog, “Handmade by Rosemary,” for the purpose of documenting the quilts and quilted things I have made over the course of two-plus decades.  I kept it private because I made quite a few references to family in it.  But I’ve just edited the blog to make it available for public viewing.  There are 46 posts in all.  (No recent posts because I haven’t been quilting lately!)  If you want to view the entire series and see the quilts I’ve made, you can link to the first post above and then make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom to see the links (arrows) to the next post, and the next, and so on.

I’m at a point in my life where I am deciding whether it is time to get rid of my boxes of fabric scraps and maybe even make gifts of some of the quilts I’ve kept.  I am not sure whether I will want to make more quilts in the years ahead or whether I will instead pursue other creative projects.  You can see from my blog archive above that I have plenty of quilts to last my lifetime!  Do I need more?




“We have eyes, and we’re looking at stuff all the time, all day long.  And I just think that whatever our eyes touch should be beautiful, tasteful, appealing, and important.”
— Eric Carle

Painting by Eric Carle, acryllic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

Painting by Eric Carle, acrylic on Tyvek, Tacoma Art Museum

In keeping with my resolution to drive less, my niece, a friend, and I made a day trip to Tacoma by bus to see the Eric Carle exhibit at the Tacoma Art Museum.  Carle is a well-known, award-winning children’s book illustrator, so I have been familiar with his work for a long time.  I enjoyed reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See to my daughter when she was very young.

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

Print of The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Tacoma Art Museum

I was so enamoured of Carle’s illustrations that I adapted some of them into applique for a handmade quilt.  Carle’s stylized, simple shapes were perfect for copying as appliqued patterns.

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear

Handmade appliqued quilt of Brown Bear, Brown Bear (2003?)




The Tacoma exhibit, “Beyond Books:  The Independent Art of Eric Carle,” presented another side of Carle as artist.  It included some of his wood block prints, framed paintings, amazing works on painted Tyvek, and even handmade greeting cards for (lucky) friends.  Now I am even more impressed by Carle’s talents.

The exhibit runs through July 7, 2013.





Exhibit sign at the Bellevue Art Museum

I finally went to see the quilt exhibit — Bold Expressions: African-American Quilts from the Collection of Corrine Riley — at the Bellevue Arts Museum (a city across Lake Washington from Seattle).  This is an amazing collection, gathered over three decades.  Most of the quilts were made between 1910 and the 1970s by women from Alabama, Texas, and other southern states.  I thought that the bold, asymmetrical and improvised designs looked quite contemporary.  This exhibit is definitely worth a trip before it closes on October 7th.

African-American quilts on exhibit

I was impressed by the industry of this quilt maker, who sewed thousands of tiny scraps into a stunning quilt.

Quilt from the Bold Expressions Exhibit

Not all of the quilts were boldly colored, but all were lovely and pleasing to look at.

Some of the quilts were tied rather than hand-quilted — reminded me of my first quilting efforts.

Detail of another tied quilt

This quilt was made from worn-out work clothes.

Even patched scraps were too valuable to throw away.

These quilt blocks, made by Corrine Riley from old, collected fabrics, were suitable for framing and for sale in the museum gift shop for $190 each.

You can read more about this exhibit in this Seattle Times article.

Patching Blue Jeans

March 2, 2012

Newly patched blue jeans

Time to patch another pair of blue jeans.  I had worn a hole in the knee, but denim is such a durable cloth that the rest of the jeans were still serviceable.  The colorful, log-cabin quilted patch will give new life to these jeans.  This patching project was quick, pleasurable, and satisfying.

Hole on the knee of a pair of blue jeans

Finding fabric for the patch from the scraps of my scraps

Sewing a log-cabin quilt block from the scrappy strips

Big enough

I used adhesive bonding to hold the patch in place.

Then I machine-sewed the patch to the jeans along the outside edge of the block.

Finally, I hand-quilted along the inside seams.

All done. Patched jeans. Ready to wear again.



Seeing Red

February 14, 2012

Here is a celebration of red for Valentine’s Day!

Red candy on my window sill

Red-and-white striped candy canes

Red DMC embroidery thread

Red buttons

Red spools of thread

Hand-quilted dresser scarf in Bear Paw pattern

Three red quilt blocks

My Latest Quilting Project

February 3, 2012

“Any day spent sewing is a good day.”
— Author unknown

Twilight Village place mats

“Our lives are like quilts — bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love.”
— Author unknown

I finished piecing and hand-quilting another project, two placemats.  The pattern is called “Twilight Village” and I found it in The Thimbleberries Book of Quilts by Lynette Jensen.  The placemats will be a gift for a young couple as they start their married life together.

Detail of house and star blocks

Signed by the quilter!

Work is Love Made Visible

January 25, 2012

Thimble on hand-quilted table runner

“Work is love made visible.
And if you cannot work with love
But only with distaste, it is better
That you should leave your work and
Sit at the gate of the temple and take
Alms from those who work with joy.”
— Anonymous

I like the notion of work as a sign of love — the meals I cook for my family, housecleaning, yardwork . . .  Whenever I do hand-quilting, I feel that I am stitching with love and that those feelings will bind me to the recipient of my labors.

I spent last week on a new quilting project — a table runner adapting the Zipper pattern I found in The Modern Quilt Workshop by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr.  The cold, snowy days made perfect weather for relaxing inside with a sewing project.  This small handmade item is destined for a wedding gift.

Searching for coordinating prints from my fabric stash

Cutting the pieces and arranging them

Sewing on the dining room table

Pressing the seams as I go along


Methodical stitching

Finished table runner


I like the following quotes from William Davies King, Collections of Nothing:

“To collect is to write a life.”

“For all of us, the pursuit has its pleasures, and some sensation of fulfillment comes in the rhythm of acquisition.”

“Collecting is a way of linking past, present, and future.  Objects from the past get collected in the present to preserve them for the future.  Collecting processes presence . . .”

Vintage embroidered linens

Sugar bowl and creamer from my sister's mother-in-law

From my sister's collection of Johnson transferware turkey plates

I always enjoy visiting my sister’s house.  She is an avid gardener, an excellent cook and baker, and a professional quilter.  Her house is full of her collections of things that reflect her varied interests.  You’ll see what I mean when you look at these photos of her home:

My sister's farmhouse kitchen

Dining room with handmade quilted table runners, place mats, and cupboard full of dishes

Living room chock full of handmade quilts

Front porch, my favorite room in the house

My sister's bedroom - more quilts

Purples and Greens

October 10, 2011

I am seeing a lot of purple-green color combinations in nature right now.    I think it is a particularly pleasing juxtaposition.

Purple calla lilies in a neighbor's yard

Purple calla lilies

Edged in green, Barberry bush


Foliage at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

Ornamental cabbage, Sky Nursery

Purple and green is also a favorite color scheme in quilts.  Here is one I made several years ago:

Kansas City Star Quilt

Lady Liberty appliqued wall-hanging, pieced by my sister, quilted by me, in 2000

In celebration of our nation’s birthday, this Fourth of July, I will share with you my collection of handmade quilted items in red, white, and blue.  I’ve made these over the years from fabric scraps.  They’ve become treasured holiday keepsakes.

Star Soup quilted wall hanging, made in 1995

Glory Be quilted wall hanging, made in 1998

Pledge of Allegiance, embroidered and hand-quilted while on a trip to Washington, D.C. in 1999

Red, beige and blue scrap quilt made in 1999

Midnight Sky quilt made from old blue jean scraps, 1998