Monday, April 24, 2006

Lo, the humble seam ripper

I was thinking today about quilting equipment, and for some reason my mind settled on the humble seam ripper. I bet you all recognize this basic Dritz model, right? I remember buying my first one with the required sewing supplies for 7th grade sewing class. And it was a tool I became quite familiar with in those early sewing days.

The idea that you'd need a tool for UN-sewing isn't foremost in one's mind when one sets out to learn to sew, is it? Freddy Moran tells the story of going to buy her first sewing machine, after she'd made a few hand-pieced quilt tops and decided she wanted to work faster. The saleslady assembled the supplies she would need and spread them out on the counter.

"What's that?" asked Freddy, pointing at the small sharp object before her.

"It's a seam ripper," the clerk replied, "for ripping out mistakes."

"Oh, I won't need THAT," Freddy answered.

But of course, she learned all too quickly -- like all of us -- that it is an indispensible tool.

My friend Nikki in my freshman sewing class was too impatient to pick seams out, stitch by stitch. She was proud to come up with her own speedy method.

Yep, she'd just take each side of the seam and RRRRRRRrrrrrrrip. It worked a time or two, but there was that one horrible time where she discovered that she'd simply ripped the fabric away from the seam, without disturbing the stitching at all. Mrs. Handley -- our Betty Crocker-esque sewing teacher -- was not pleased, and gathered us all around the disaster show us the folly of careless ripping. (Lacking the proper respect for fabric, Nikki giggled through the whole experience.)

It was a revelation to learn that some seam rippers were actually really sharp and easy to use. My beloved old Elna Super sewing machine (my first new machine!) came with one like this, which was a joy to use... if you call ripping out a mistake a joy...

It was so teeny that it slid right into those stitches. But it was so teeny it fell to the floor or rolled under fabric and I was always hunting for it.

I don't know when it occurred to me that I could actually BUY spare seam rippers. You know, one for the sewing box, one to keep at the machine, one extra just in case... I found this great clover one with a sharp point and a comfy handle.

And it was my favorite, until my friend Pat told me about the SCALPEL.

Doesn't that make seam-ripping sound so OFFICIAL? And serious? This thing is SHARP, but it cuts stitches like they're butter. (And yes, it's easy to cut the fabric with it. Ask me how I know.) I love my little blue scalpel. I think I need to buy a few more, just to have around, in case I need to rip a seam or perform surgery or something.

And while perusing a sewing catalog recently (as one does), I came upon these scissors specifically for seam ripping:

Who knew?! Actual new seam ripping technology? Or are these old and I'd just never seen them before? Do they work? Are they sharp? Can anything be better than a scalpel? I'm skeptical.

And besides, I won't be ripping THAT much, will I?

Will I???

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Sniffly Sunday

I liked Deborah's picture entry so much that I thought I'd try it myself to show you how my Sunday has gone.

I woke up and took some

for my cold. I've been going through the

like crazy!

For lunch, I had

then settled down to read my book,

I roused myself to go to

to buy

and then was so exhausted from that excursion that I came home to take a

Saturday, April 22, 2006

It's a Wonderful Life

We’ve all realized that one of the amazing things about the blogosphere is how you can connect with complete strangers, and through reading their blogs begin to feel such a sense of familiarity and friendship.

I recently discovered a blog called PomegranatesandPaper, and I was enjoying reading it, thinking that certain things sounded vaguely familiar. The more I read, the more that sense enveloped me. And after poking around the links on the margins there, I realized that the blog is by Loretta Marvel, an artist and writer and lawyer who I’d known from my book-making and mail art exchange days. You might know her from her regular column in Cloth, Paper, Scissors, too. Turns out that Blogland isn’t that big a place, I guess. It’s been very nice to reconnect with her.

I love Loretta’s List Friday themes. So, in response to her challenge to list the reasons why I love where I live:

1. After living outside of California for almost 15 years and outside of the SF bay area for probably 20 years, I love being back and the sense of familiarity here. I encounter places I went as a child. I know the trees and plants and weeds here. The landscape is comforting, and the air smells like home. That smell of the eucalyptus trees when you through the Presidio coming off of the Golden Gate Bridge? Heaven.

2. It’s small town life, California wine country style. Healdsburg has great small town stuff – the Future Farmers Parade is one of the goofiest, rambliest parades you’ve ever seen, but it’s not to be missed. Everyone in town is either in the parade or on the sidewalk watching it. I love going into shops in town and knowing the shopkeepers and their greeting me by name. It’s a tight-knit community, even though weekends bring the straw-hat ladies (as a realtor one said) and their golf-shirted men for wine tasting and boutique hopping.

3. The rolling hills of vineyards are stunningly beautiful every single day. I love watching how they change, and seeing the seasonal flurries of activity as the vines are pruned and the grapes are harvested. Some of them are "sparkly gardens," which is how my 10-year old friend Selena describes the vineyards where silver mylar ribbons are tied to the vines to blow in the breezes and startle birds away. And this valuable vineyard business means that all these gorgeous hills won’t be turned into housing developments ... the land is profitable on its own for agriculture. So these green rolling hills will stay green...and sparkly.

4. Seeing family doesn’t mean a cross-country flight twice a year anymore. Mom and Dad are a two hour drive away, which seems like a piece of it means the gorgeous drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the city (see #1). My brother lives just an hour away, and my dear sister Laura lives right here in my very own town – this is the first time we’ve been able to share our daily lives since we were high school kids living at home.

5. We live in a 5 year old development, new enough that most of us here moved in to spanking clean, new houses, but now the yards are filling out with teenaged plants and the trees are looking tall and established. The road into the development crests a small hill and then dips down into a gentle valley, and at that hill crest there’s a wonderful view of houses nestled together surrounded by oak-covered hills, with Geyser Peak mountain in the distance. I love having families and kids all around us, people walking their dogs in the evenings, kids bicycling to the park a few blocks away. There’s a quiet sense of neighborhoodness here.

6. Living in wine country means that there is great food and wine all around us. We’ve become dreadfully spoiled and, despite the fact that we don’t generally buy wine over $15 a bottle, our taste for wine has changed pretty drastically. None of that "2 buck Chuck’s" for us... Yuck. Our local grocery store has great local offerings...local seafood, gorgeous local produce, interesting locally-made cheeses, farm-raised meat and poultry. The twice-weekly farmer’s market has wonderful stuff too... home-made duck tamales! Fresh caught crab!

7. Sourdough bread. This deserves an entry all its own, as it’s a basic necessity of life. Living away from the bay area for so long, and buying what was claimed to be sourdough in other places, makes me grateful that I can get the real, tangy thing all the time here. Good sourdough bread (crunchy on the outside, soft and doughy on the inside), with a bit of butter...and a good glass of local Zin...What could be better?

8. I love the people in this community. I have friends who are natives, and I love hearing how Healdsburg was when they went to elementary school here – back when Healdsburg was known as the "buckle of the prune belt" (how’s that for a catchy town slogan?!) and the local industry was growing plums for prunes. Most of the folks I know have come here from somewhere else...many from the SF bay area, escaping Silicon Valley and the outrageous cost of living there, quite a few for the wine industry and for the ability to grow grapes and make wine. I love hearing people’s stories of why they’re here, and knowing that we’re all united in being here because we love it.

9. There’s a great public library system here. Growing up in California, I didn’t know that all library systems weren’t like this. I live and breathe reading, and the library is an important weekly destination for me. It was a shock to move to New Hampshire and find that the libraries were tiny, not especially well-supported, not linked together across communities or counties, AND that you had to pay a fee if you wanted to use any library beyond the one in your town. (I lived in a teeny town outside of Concord, where the library was open for 3 hours on Saturday morning and 2 hours one weekday afternoon...the "new book" shelf consisted of about 20 books. As a result, I paid an annual fee to use the big library in the Concord, where I was still dismayed to find that much of their fiction was stored in the basement where people were not allowed to had to "call" books up by name.) Back in California, I love that I can walk into any library in my county and check out books. The county’s entire catalog is online, so I can browse online, reserve books from home, and have everything delivered to my local library...for free.

10. I live in a town with a great fabric store, Fabrications. I can stop by to peruse the new stuff on my way to pick Caroline up from school. I can dash in on Sunday afternoon to pick up thread when I’ve run out while in the middle of quilting. There are terrific stores within an easy hour’s drive, but there’s nothing like the convenience of having a great place just 5 minutes away.

So, what do you love about where YOU live?

Friday, April 21, 2006

New Green

Since I just finished "Airborne over Healdsburg," I am letting myself start a new project. Here's my palette -- I'm thinking springy yellowy-greens with bits of purple and red. (That's a split complimentary color combination, I believe... check out this fun website!)

I'm not known for working in green much. But I think all the rain we've had over the last 6 weeks is making me crave the color of fresh grass and new tree leaves.

Isn't it so fun to start something new?

It's here!

Look what the Wells Fargo Wagon brought me today!

And within minutes, I had this:

Isn't it a HUGE, lovely new monitor? I'm checking out Laura Wasilowski's new blog here. (Welcome to blogland, Laura!)

I have to go look at all sorts of stuff now to see how stunning it looks on this vast, bright screen.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Finally finished!

I'm finally done with this! The title (until I think of a better one) is "View from Above: Healdsburg."

Considering that this was an experiment with working out a way to do reverse applique topographical images, I'm very happy with it. I'm already planning the next one (ooh! a series!) and having stumbled through this, I think I'll be able to make a few things easier next time.

I had a great time quilting topographical map-ish lines on it. Here are a few detail shots:


And, just in case you're interested, my binding movie this morning was The Constant Gardener, which was wonderful (but it slowed me down, having so much interesting imagery and photography...not the best movie for just listening!)

I was looking forward to going to my guild meeting this morning but woke up with a bad sore throat and achey feeling that means I'm getting the cold Caroline has had. So, I stayed home to be silent and to keep dosing myself with Airborne.

Hey, maybe I should call this Airborne: Healdsburg!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In Which the Day Does Not Go As Planned

This is what I saw when I turned on my computer this morning.

...which is to say that my monitor died, and I saw nothing.

This monitor had a good long life. It belonged to my dad, originally. He's a high-tech connoisseur who has the very nice habit of giving his expensive, high-performance gadgets to his children when he upgrades. This was the monitor that jumped me from 15 inches to 17 inches, a vast difference in my field of vision for work and play. It's a huge, heavy beast and it takes up the whole corner of my desk. But it's been a good ol' monitor. And I knew it was going, from the odd humming and other strange things it has been doing lately.

But gosh darn it, this really changed my day. I was going to sew, while making intermittent trips to the laundry room... And instead, I spent the morning in my husband's office researching monitors and figuring how best and most quickly to get a new monitor on my desk, then the afternoon trekking to Circuit City and CompUSA to check out their offerings.

I'm now awaiting a fancy flat panel Dell which should arrive in 2 days. Until then, I'll have to visit the internet on Roger's computer. And gee, since my work will be hindered, I'll just have to get back to work on my quilt.

Give your monitor a good pat and a "thank you" today. It's awfully dark without it!

Monday, April 17, 2006

To Winter and Back

Caroline's dream was to see snow for Easter. So, we headed up to Lake Tahoe last Thursday -- a 5 hour drive from our home -- to stay at my sister-in-law's house there. (How lucky are we, to have a Tahoe place available?!)

Here's what some of us were doing on Friday morning:

Caroline buried herself in the snow. Gemma frolicked wildly, never having experienced snow before. Roger and I took turns trying to keep her under control, while being pelted with snowballs.

Caroline does not remember her years living in New Hampshire, between ages 6 months old and 2 1/2. She loves to hear about how she stood in a snowbank up to her neck (just briefly -- we rescued her immediately). Now, at age 10, she has the skills to shovel her way out.

Gemma met a friendly neighbor golden retriever, Grizzly, and they had a good old time playing keep-away with a big pinecone.

I didn't get pictures of our big sledding day on Saturday. I was too tired from trudging up the hill over and over. But it was WAY fun. And we rewarded ourselves Saturday night with a lovely dinner at Sunnyside Restaurant (Mel! Where you AQ Tahoe guys went!) for prime rib and garlic mashed potatoes accompanied by a gorgeous cabernet sauvignon.

By the way, it crossed my mind to bring some hand-sewing project to work on. To Tahoe generally, I mean, not to dinner. But I don't really have a hand-sewing project. So bringing one would have required planning a design or choosing a pattern, choosing fabric, assembling supplies...It was simply too overwhelming and I was overwhelmed as it was with packing snow gear and clothes and dog supplies and Easter goodies and other weekend accoutrements.

So, instead I packed a big stack of books and a knitting project. I was so happy curled up on the couch next to the woodstove that I managed to read all 4 1/2 of the books I brought. ("Seaside" by Scarlet Thomas-- an eerie, unsettling mystery; "The Nominee" by Brian McGrory, a ripping political thriller that I didn't want to put down; "Julie and Romeo Get Lucky" by Jeanne Ray, a slightly fluffy but enjoyable story of two folks in their 60's in love and combining families; and "To the Hilt" by Dick Francis, an engrossing and totally satisfying mystery of hidden Scottish relics and business intrigue; and "Yarn Harlot," essays on knitting by the wonderful writter and blogger Stephanie Pearl-McPhee. I knitted only about 2 inches on the scarf, I'm embarrassed to say.

Our plan was to drive home on Easter sunday, after a relatively leisurely breakfast, so that Roger could be at school for Monday classes (don't you love a county where the community college has the week BEFORE Easter for vacation and the public schools have the week AFTER?) and Caroline could be at Day #1 of pony camp. But to our surprise and Caroline's great delight, here's what we saw off the back deck on Sunday morning:

After scanning weather reports and calling the Highway Patrol road conditions line to see what conditions were like on the ONE highway that gets from Tahoe to the SF Bay area, we determined that we should stay put. This proved to be an excellent decision, as the news that evening was full of pictures of stopped traffic and massive snow on Sunday afternoon, with the road eventually closing for hours.

So, we gave up our travel plans and happily resigned ourself to being snowed in. Caroline assembled a gingerbread bunny hut. (I'd like to say that we did this ourselves, but it was from a kit.)

Gemma got to taste an Easter "Peep."

Roger and I read and kept the wood stove burning and generally were very content.

And here's how things looked on Monday morning:

Gorgeous! The roads were totally clear and we had an easy drive home.

And here's what we found in our backyard back in Healdsburg:


From winter to spring in 5 hours.

Normal life will now resume.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Hippety, Hoppety...

Easter's on its way. And if it's time for Easter, that must mean it's time for...

See's Candy, of course!

If you live in the Western US, you know that See's Candy is delicious brand of candy...mostly chocolate confections, but other good stuff too. See's was started by Mary See in San Francisco -- her face is well known to everyone who has ever walked through a mall in California or opened a box of her candy. Someone told me recently (could this be true?) that she was an unwed mother, thrown out of the house by her shamed parents, and so she went to work for some candy store owner in SF. She learned the business and then started her own and voila, here we are, pounds later. Pounds of chocolate, for her...pounds of fat on the hips for many of us.

ANYway. Why am I blathering on about this? See's runs these great and surprisingly easy fundraisers for nonprofit groups like elementary schools. So, I've been running an Easter candy fundraiser for Caroline's school, and I've had chocolate on the mind lately as a result. The order-getting part was easy...after all, this stuff pretty much sells itself. But the shipment arrived Monday morning, which meant that I spent all Monday afternoon in the school library sorting boxes and assembling orders. And tuesday morning I walked all over the school grounds (in the rain, to those outside buildings where the room numbers don't go in order so you have to roam around to find which room is where...) delivering the orders to classrooms.

Today, I've sorted out few puzzling problems that arose, gave free chocolate bunnies to the three kids who sold the most, sold a few extra items just walking around school with it (wanna sell some chocolate? Hit up the teacher's lounge during afternoon recess...) and then distributed the remainder items to the hard working secretaries and classroom aides who make next to nothing but keep the school going.

I'm sorta sick of chocolate, and I didn't even eat it. Well, much, anyway.

We are off tomorrow morning to spend Easter weekend in Lake Tahoe. With the dog, which ought to be either really amusing or really a pain or some of both.

Happy Easter, everyone!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Proud to be Dumb?

Today, as I was getting into my car in the grocery store parking lot, I noticed the license plate frame on a car near mine. It read:

"Dumbs are not always blondes."

A dark-haired girl, probably in her mid-20's, was getting out of the car.

I've been puzzling about this ever since I saw it. Now, what would possess someone to put that frame on her own car? If it were on a car driven by a blonde, I could see it as intended to be directed to others, sort of a "don't assume I'm dumb because I'm blonde" sort of thing.

But the girl getting out of the car had very dark hair. Maybe it wasn't her car? Or she's proud to be dumb? She's jealous of all the attention blondes get their alleged stupidity? Hmmm, maybe she doesn't get what it means (and thereby advertising the truth of the sentiment)?

Or maybe someone put it on her car and she hasn't noticed it yet?

Go figure.

Monday, April 10, 2006

$100,000 Quilting Challenge

A friend of mine saw the magazine $100,000 Quilting Challenge and picked up a copy for me. I finally got a chance to look through it this weekend. Have you seen it?

The concept as promoted by the magazine publisher is to "bring the excitement of reality TV to the quilting and publishing worlds." The idea, I guess, is that people enter their quilts into one of 10 quilting categories, judges choose a finalist in each category per round, and at the end of the year, judges and the public (subscribers, maybe?) choose one grand prize-winning quilt.

The idea is clever, actually. Sort of like "American Idol" but without the bad singing! And this first issue of the magazine is pretty good, with substantive articles by well-known quilters like Ellen Anne Eddy, Katie Pasquini Masopust, and Becky Goldsmith & Linda Jenkins.

But here's what surprised and sort of disappointed me: some of finalist quilts revealed in this issue are ones I've seen before, and are from professional quilters and teachers. Somehow, I'd thought that this would be about seeing new, undiscovered talent, and wasn't going to be just a new method of judging the same quilts from the same usual people. I guess the comparison to reality tv is what created that expectation, because when I skimmed the rules, I realized that there isn't any prohibition from professional entering quilts that have been in other juried shows. And really, since anyone can enter I guess new quilts from new talent could show up along the way.

I was pleased to see that Frieda Anderson is one of the finalists for her "Shimmering Foliage," which is my favorite of the finalists. The finalist quilts are impressive ones in their categories. .

I'd like to see a quilt competition like American Idol -- better yet, like Project Runway! Take a bunch of quilters -- mixed traditional, contemporary, users of various techniques. Put them in a big studio (in Paducah!) and give them short periods of time to make quilts. Imagine the challenges!
* Take them to the Salvation Army, give them $20 and an hour to shop, and see what they come up with in 48 hours.
* Give them all the same assortment of solid color fabrics.
* Have a challenge where they can't use a sewing machine for ANYthing.

What challenges would you propose? The possibilities are fun to think about. Yep, I'd watch THAT!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

More from Bishop's Ranch

It is only today that I have finished unpacking my sewing gear from last week's retreat. I'm still buzzing with inspiration, which is only slightly dampened by the reality of grocery shopping, laundry, floor-mopping, and other chores that are a bit out of hand around here.

But I'll pretend I'm at the ranch a bit longer, and show you a few more pictures featuring women from the Mt. Tamalpais Quilt Guild in Marin. A few entries ago, I introduced you to the back of Pat Dicker's head. She's the talented quilter who has the same taste in bright fabric that I do. Well, here she is again.

This is Pat's free-motion quilting practice quilt. Uh huh! Instead of using a scrap of batting and leftover fabric to warm up each time she sat down to do free-motion quilting, Pat assembled this top from left-over squares of novelty prints she had. Don't you love the artful arrangement of color? Then she sandwiched it and each time she was getting ready to quilt, she did a bit of free-motion quilting here to start. This is a charming mix of different patterns and threads and colors and the result is absolutely charming.

We both have an obsession fondness for the quilts made by Freddy Moran. Here she is showing one of her house quilts, which she was using as her bedspread during the retreat.

This charming chicken quilt is based on a Mary Lou Weidman pattern, done with Pat's usual wacky humor and flair for color. Can you see that some of the chickens are sitting on easter eggs?

This is one of the several projects Pat was working on during the retreat...a fancy tumbling blocks pattern from a Laura Nownes/Diana McClun pattern. And those red blocks over to the side? Pat would randomly switch and work on fusing those, too.

I apologize to Sydne for the inopportune moment at which I snapped this...She doesn't normally walk around with her mouth wide open like this! But it was my only shot of this lovely little quilt made from a Robbi Joy Ecklow pattern. Sydne was assembling the top at our last retreat, so it was fun to see it finished.

This is Diane Ansel, also from the Marin area. Some of you might recognize this quilt from various shows...and yes, if you saw it, it probably had a big old ribbon near it! Diane is especially proud that this won the Viewer's Choice award at Art Quilt Tahoe last year ... in fact, it took 2 of the 4 ribbons awarded there.

Diane's a quilter of eclectic taste. She's only been quilting for 4 years, I think she told me -- or was it 6? In any event, it's short given her talent and prolific output. Here she is with a star quilt she made in a class with Alex Anderson:

This soft pastel top is so pretty. (I think I crave pink around this time of year.)

I was enthralled watching Diane work during this retreat. She was making a small fish quilt for a close friend, which looked like this early in the retreat:

I love the piecing and staggered strips in the backround. (This is lying on a table, hence the skewed perspective.) By the end of the retreat, Diane had THIS:

You can't see all the beading and detail stitching, but trust me, it's there.

Isn't it gorgeous, and doesn't Diane look pleased?! (Of course, if I had just made this and I was about to head off to Paris for a month like *she* is, I'd be looking pretty pleased, too!)

You can tell that this retreat is about giving women who enjoy each others' company space to relax, sew, and laugh together. It doesn't matter if people are beginners or advanced quilters, and it doesn't matter that an art quilter is working next to someone making a traditional pattern with reproduction fabrics. There's no competition. We enjoy quilting and each other, and that's enough.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Meeting an old friend for the first time

Have you ever had the experience of meeting someone that you feel like you know, but you've never met them in person? It's oddly disconcerting and very fun. I used to have a job where I talked to certain people on the phone almost daily, and we developed very friendly relationships over the phone. It wasn't until I was leaving the position that my co-workers threw a party and invited everyone I'd been talking to, and it was weird but very nice to finally meet everyone face to face. (I hadn't pictured anyone at all the way they actually looked.)

Well, I had a similar experience while I was at the Bishop's Ranch retreat. I've talked a few times about Annie Smith's podcast "Quilting Stash," and how much I've been enjoying listening to the current and past podcasts. Because I only discovered them a while ago, even though the podcast is actually a year old (Hey! Its official anniversary is tomorrow, April 9!), I've been listening to archived podcasts from the past as I've sewn or puttered around in my office. Annie's podcasts are so congenial and chatty that I've come to feel as if I know her. We emailed back and forth a bit, and Annie even did a podcast about "How to be a good teacher" (go to Podcast #42) based on an email I'd sent her listing my pet peeves of things teachers do but, in my view, shouldn't.

[By the way, you do not need an Ipod or MP3 player to listen to these podcasts. Simply go to the link above, click on the particular podcast you want, and then WAIT a bit while it streams to your computer. It's best to click on the link and then do something else in the room for 5 minutes. It really does take a while to load, and I've talked to several people who -- like me, the first time -- clicked it off without hearing anything thinking it wouldn't work on my computer. In reality, I didn't give it enough loading time. So, just occupy yourself for a bit looking at a bookk or petting your fabric, and then you'll hear Annie's voice. If you do have an MP3 player, you can subscribe to the podcasts through Itunes or through Annie's site to download each new edition and listen to it on the run.]

So, I was delighted when Annie took me up on my invitation to visit Bishop's Ranch during the retreat. Last tuesday Annie braved a pretty constant rainstorm and arrived at the ranch at about 3:00 in the afternoon. She was friendly and smiley and she seemed right at home with a house full of quilters! Annie met everyone and got to see and talk about everyone's projects... It's pretty easy to get quilters to talk about their projects, don't you find?! What was especially fun was that Annie brought her recording equipment and spent several hours interviewing some of the retreat participants, including yours truly. So, within the next week or two, you should find interviews with various "ranch hand" quilters up on Annie's site. I babbled on about the Artful Quilters Blog Ring, so it'll be interesting to see if we see a sudden jump in blog readership after those are posted!

Annie joined us for dinner and a lot more quilty chatter. The nicest discovery was that, indirectly, Annie started quilting because of my friend Janet Shore! Many years ago, Janet and a few others put on a quilting symposium in the Berkeley area where they sponsored talks and classes by quilt artists and teachers such as Michael James and Nancy Crow. Apparently Annie's sister went to the symposium and came home raving so enthusiastically about quilting that Annie decided to give it a try! That's how she got into quilting! She was delighted to meet Janet and you'll find a podcast interview with Janet coming up on Quilting Stash soon, too.

With all of the excitement, I didn't think to get a camera out and take a picture of her. Duh. I was having too much fun talking.

I'm eager to hear Annie's description of the experience. I"m not sure whether I'll be able to listen to my own interview, but it'll be so fun to hear what the others had to say!

It's an amazing thing, how we're able to make friends through blogs and websites and podcasts.

More from Bishop's Ranch

Some more about the fun and fabulous women at the Bishop's Ranch retreat:

Meet Angie. She's the unofficial "official photographer" of these quilting ranch retreats, and here she is getting ready to document "show and tell." She's been posting her pictures from the quilting retreats on her Community Webshots album for several years now, and the Bishop's Ranch folks report that they get a lot of comments about them. Apparently a Google search for "Bishop's Ranch" pulls Angie's pictures up at the top of the list, so they're seen by quite a few folks.

Angie's lovely. She's got an infectious smile and a happy giggle. She's one of those people who looks calm and relaxed despite the vast array of responsibilities and activities she juggles every day.

Angie is also very knowledgeable about home quilting systems -- you know, the frame systems available to allow folks who want to do something like long-arm quilting without spending $20,000. Angie hosts a Yahoo group on home quilting systems and she can answer pretty much any question about any system. Very impressive. On Angie's Webshot album, she has pictures of her Hinterburg frame and her quilting set-up.

Here she is, head bent in concentration, next to Barbara. (Barbara is also a sweetheart and a wicked dominoes player...more on THAT later!)

Angie finished the prairie points on a small quilt she was making. Now, I'm not a big redwork fan, which is surprising as I adore RED of just about anything. But THIS quilt I like.

And here are Angie and Barbara, showing the quilt tops they'd made in a mini-group swap project. I guess they all made these Notan-style leaf blocks out of batiks and swapped them. Apparently everyone else made small wall hangings, and Angie and Barbara got carried away to bigger things.

By the way...a disclaimer about the above photo and others you see with that purple background wall. On wednesday, we had our group "show and tell" in the ranch's chapel. It's a stunning chappel, very small and intimate. It has these gorgeous, modern stained glass windows over the altar. See?

(Oops, there's a head there...but a better image of the window's design...)

Well, the windows are gorgeous. We all love seeing them. During show and tell, the light in the room is fine, and we admire the quilts happily. But the back-lighting of those windows makes for horrible photographs. In order to get presentable photos to show here, I had to tinker with the brightness a fair amount on Photoshop to get reasonably decent photos. That's why the pictures look horribly grainy. And ladies in the pictures, please excuse me...I always erred on the side of making the QUILT look as good as it did in person...which sometimes meant that the actual person didn't look so good. I assure you that any less-than-stunning portrayals of the people in the pictures was solely the result of strange lighting. They were all flawlessly beautiful in person.
Anyway. Back to the ranch events... On the last afternoon, Angie and Barbara found a very sunny spot to sit and do handwork while the rest of us packed up our assortment of gear. They'd managed to stow their stuff earlier when we weren't looking. Or when we were off nibbling this amazingly gorgeous stilton cheese with apricots in it that someone brought.

See? Doesn't Angie look like someone you'd want to sit and stitch with?

I mentioned Pam earlier. She's a riot. She lives out on a small ranch herself, where she and her her husband keep numerous dogs and horses. She works part-time at a quilting shop in Sonoma, and she's just plain fun to be around. We're trying to push her toward bright colors, but she's resisting mightily.

Here's the community quilt she's donating. She started this on day one, and had finished it by day 2. The fabrics were all these pale turquoise and red and brown cowboy prints, from a Michael Miller line, I think she said.

And she showed this asian horse quilt, made with photo-transfered horse paintings that a friend had found for her.

One of the nice things about these retreats is that you get time with people you know but don't KNOW. Shirley, here, is in my quilt guild and I've known her to say hi to but I never really talked to her. She sat right near me, so we chatted a bit. I teased her that every time I looked up, she had a different assortment of fabric in front of her and was working on a different project. And it's true...I don't know how she did that.

Here she is with a small project she's about to start hand-quilting. I love how the spaces between the stars form those little white squares. This is quite an elegant little block.

She showed a quilt she'd completed since October, from Sandy Cumming's "Thinking Outside the Block."

Oh! You should meet Janelle, the organizer of this retreat. She hangs out in the dining room, usually handquilting.

She was working on this set of miniature Amish quilts.

By the way, I've not raved sufficiently about how good the food at the ranch is. It is marvelous. And not just because someone else cooks it and cleans up after it...It is, on its own, delicious food. The first night there we had pork tenderloin in honey mustard sauce which was by far the best pork I'd ever eaten in my life. Ever. The chefs are very generous and give out their recipes, so guess what I'm cooking tonight? Yep! Roast pork in honey mustard sauce! This is my first experience in brining anything, so I'll report later.