Saturday, April 07, 2007

Back from the ranch

Well, THESE got your attention, didn't they?!
I'm just back from my annual April retreat at Bishop's Ranch, and I am SO jazzed. This was the best retreat ever. I'm not even sure why... the great group of women who were there, the beautiful spring weather, the fun projects to sew, the great food... I experience those every year, and they're always wonderful. This year was just special. One of my favorite people was here all the way from Massachusetts -- Mary Lou -- and as I don't get to see her very often, having her there was especially wonderful. She is probably part of the extra wonderfulness. At any rate, I am still grinning from ear to ear, and feeling full of creative inspiration and enthusiasm.
And the strawberries? Eight of us took a trip into town to a local fabric store for a break and a bit (ahem) of fabric shopping, and when we returned, this lovely spread was waiting for us.
You can see why we like these retreats so much! While we'd been sewing that afternoon, Joanne took some time to make these for everyone! They were even more delicious than they look...and Joanne says that Guittard milk chocolate chips (melted with about 1 tablespoon of crisco shortening so the chocolate doesn't harden to "cracking" stage) are the secret.
There are so many things I love about these retreats, but the very best thing to me is the generous sharing that goes on all week. Everyone is so great about sharing everything -- ideas, fabric, supplies, recipes, magazines, funny stories.
For example, this is Maureen. She's looking so happy because she just got a brand new sewing machine.
Maureen has done her quilting on a Juki TL98E, but she wanted a large harp machine that had other stitches too. This new one has 10" -- a subject which led to many jokes and much hilarity about the benefits of an extra few inches.
This is Pam. And she's smiling (well, she smiles all the time) but she's smiling HERE because she's decided to buy Maureen's Juki.
Pam's excitement over her soon-to-be-new-Juki led to much sharing of information by Joanie (sorry, I didn't have my camera to take pictures up in that room), who was sewing on her own Juki during the retreat.
So, one sewing machine purchase led to a whole lot of excitement throughout the retreat. Maureen was quilting some donation quilts, and we were soon teasing her about her Huck Finn cleverness. "Wanna try my new machine?" she'd say, innocently, "Here, quilt a section of this quilt." Pretty soon, as woman after woman tried the machine and quilted a section, a LOT of that little quilt was quilted!
Another infection spread like wildfire through the retreat. Pat D., one of the most talented quilters I know, had made a quilt top inspired by the book One Block Wonders by Maxine Rosenthal.
It's like the stack-and-whack technique, only working with the colors in the fabric differently in a way that results in a pretty sophisticated looking design. Here's Pat's:

Isn't it stunning? You can see why we were all enthralled...and eager to try the technique. Pat had a set of hinged mirrors that allow you to see what kaleidoscopic effects you can get from different fabric prints, so we all had fun playing with those on our own fabrics, with much excitement. It's amazing how different fabric yields such different results. Can you see the iris print that Pat used to get this effect? It's what she put in the four corner blocks.
Coincidentally, Shirley was working on a one-block-wonder quilt, too, with a very charming animal jungle print. I never did get a picture of her blocks, which were really bright and busy and fun.

Pat had so much fun making hers that she now keeps a set of "magic mirrors" in her car so she can try out kaleidoscopic effects on fabric when she shops!

Seeing Pat's and Shirley's quilts caused several of us to want to give it a try...which is what led to the fabric shopping trip in the first place.
Here are my two Pats playing with magic mirrors. My good friend Pat M got that gorgeous olive/gold/turquoise fabric to work with.
And here's just one of the designs revealed by the mirror trick:
And look at how her blocks looked as she got more made...
Very venetian tile-like, yes? Stunning. Making these blocks is so addictive, because you can't wait to see what each one will look like.
Of course, I couldn't resist trying too. I chose this Alexander Henry fabric called "Kleo":
Gee, it's got a fair amount of PINK. I didn't even notice. Oh, and here's how my blocks look so far:
Totally fun. (At present they sit in a bin and will have to wait for further assembly until we return after Easter vacation.)
Several others in the group rushed off to buy the book, and another group made arrangements to make one of these for their guild's next opportunity quilt.
I do believe that this all makes us "one block Wonder-women."
And isn't that a great thing to share?!

1 comment :

  1. What fun fabrics, friendship, and quilts! I LOVE your pink and green one block wonder blocks. I've seen the book and was curious about how it would work -- looks like it works very well indeed.