Modern Quilt Perspectives {book review}


It’s finally here, the book that Thomas told me he would someday write way back when we first met at Quilt Market. Houston in 2011, right, Thomas?

I’d already fallen for his first collection, Pear Tree, and its lovely muted colors (the same just-off hues that would sucker me into every TK collection).  We’d talked online thanks to my work for FabShop News magazine and I was both awed and honored when he went out of his way to talk to me in the wide aisles of Market. He told me his ideas for a book and I knew this guy was different.

Spend five minutes talking to Thomas and you’ll be awed by his vast knowledge and ability to pull info, facts and connections seemingly out of thin air. I like to think the guy is a genius. He chalks it up to a lot of schooling. I’ll agree to something in the middle.

Thomas’ skill at drawing connections and thinking beyond the “Isn’t that pretty?” that infiltrates the fabric world continues to amaze and inspire me. And it is in that unique way that Modern Quilt Perspectives unfolds.

Essays. Quilt patterns. Sidebars of wisdom. It’s a remarkable book and I can’t recommend it enough.

In particular I want to share about the Excess quilt. No, I didn’t have anything to do with it (though I did make an ‘I’ for the Identity quilt!).  It’s just one that symbolizes all that this book does.

Here, take a look:

Lovely, right? It is an incredibly long quilt (13 feet, in fact!) and when I was flipping through the book for the first time, it caught my eye with its size and the preponderance of reds and dashes of green and blue. It’s scrappy the way scrappy ought to be, I thought.

It wasn’t until I stopped to actually read the accompanying essay, that I understood its importance as a piece of art, an unspoken message.

And that’s something that Thomas never  forgets or looks past. Quilts are art. They can be powerful, awe-inspiring, meditative and breathtaking. This quilt took my breath away.

In Excess, there are 1,600 of those little 2-1/2″ blocks. It’s not a random number, something picked out of the air or decided on when the quilt got to the right size. No, that number was chosen for a reason.

Every year, approximately 1,600 women and men are killed in acts of domestic violence in the United States, victimized by their partners and spouses. … Excess is a memorial to this overwhelming reality, a visualization of the forest of loss. Each of the 1,600 squares in the quilt represents a death, with each red or orange stripe a woman killed, and each blue or green one a man.

Now go look at that quilt again and meditate on those numbers, that issue.

Then go read how Lisa quilted it with the text from the United States’ Violence Against Women Act.

This is what makes Modern Quilt Perspectives more than just a quilting book. There is substance and depth and meaning, so much meaning, to all of it. Thank you, Thomas, for reminding me (us?) of the import of it all.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .


I decided I  would make the pattern myself (this is a quilting book after all), though not in the numbers that Excess originally calls for. Just a few dozen in my favorite greys. I haven’t decided how big I’ll make it, or quite what I’ll do with it when I have pieced it together. But I can tell you that the quilts in Modern Quilt Perspectives are not only powerful art, but that they are well-written patterns as well.


So get to it–go get the book, read it, learn from it and venture onward. I can promise you this: it will change the way you look at quilts and the messages they can send.

Thank you, Thomas, for an amazing book, jaw-dropping quilts and for being you.

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

A giveaway! I almost forgot. Tell me what issue/message you’d quilt about if you could. Personally, I’m pondering ways to put the struggles and joys of solo parenting into fabric form. Let me know if you have any ideas. Comments will close on Monday 4/7 at midnight. Winner announced 4/9.

Cross that one off the list!

accuquilt go cutter
This has been on my dream list for a very long time and today it showed up on my doorstep.

The dies will arrive tomorrow, then I’ll get cranking on a bigger version of this beauty:

I’ve got another three times this size due very soon and I can’t wait to see it hanging.

Back at it for another year

In many ways, this feels like a year that wasn’t. The last 18 months have been a whirlwind of changes and adjustments, some great (a fabulous job with a wonderful fabric company) and some not-so-great (sunk $6k into what should have been a reliable car, but ended up with car payments on a new one instead).

Last January, before much of the craziness started, I set all sorts of goals for myself, things I wanted to start, finish or some combination of the two. But as life tends to do, it gets in the way of all my grand plans. And so while I was sure I was going to be able to finish all the quilting on Grandma’s quilt in 2013, I only managed to finish eight blocks before it got lost to the chaos of moving to Cali.  Eight. [hanging head in shame] Sorry, Grandma.

But I’m back at it!


I’m setting the bar low this year and am promising to finish just one block a week. Of course, it will end up taking me two and a half years to finish it this way (there are 143 of those little blocks!), but at least it’s progress. And who knows, maybe there will be weeks when I can get two or three or five done.

So while I feel like I’ve let Grandma down somehow by not finishing, I just have to remember that the darn thing sat in a box at my mom’s house for 40 years before this. Sheesh.

And there you have it, my one New Year’s resolution for 2014 (and probably 2015, too!). I will complete one block a week until it ‘s finished. And then I’ll have to decide who gets it.

Do you make long-term resolutions? Do you stick to it?

Christmas in SoCal

This was a weird Christmas for us: the first when our trio wasn’t together and our first as a duo in Southern California. So we did something new and different.

I’m lucky enough to have my sister live just down the street, so on Christmas Eve, we went to her (bigger and nicer) home and made goodies together. I used my trusty old Good Housekeeping cookbook for the ginger snaps and the recipe Grandma Coates used every Christmas to make butterhorns. 20131227-194426.jpg

Both batches of Butterhorns turned out just beautifully and everyone who tasted them agreed that they tasted delicious. I don’t know, personally, because they are full of all sorts of gluten. I’d like to think that Grandma would be proud to have her Christmas tradition continue. 20131227-194441.jpg

But then there were the gingersnaps. The recipe called for shortening and unfortunately we only had butter. No one really wanted to try going to the store at 8pm on Christmas Eve, so we stuck with the butter. Probably not the best decision I’ve ever made. 20131227-194500.jpgI hear they tasted fine, but with no snap at all and almost the entire sheet made up one massive cookie. Sorry, folks, no gingersnaps this year.

Meanwhile my sister made truffles from my own recipe I’d given her years ago and while the ganache cooled, we watched A Christmas Story. Again. Yet I still haven’t read the book like I swear I will each time we watch it. Maybe I’ll get to it this year? Doubtful, but you never know!


Traditionally onChristmas Eve we go out to my parents’ house and sleep over, but considering they’re in Oregon, the daughter and I just went home after the movie and wrapped a few last minute presents before heading to bed. Strange, yet not too bad.

We’d agreed to let my sister sleep in, but by 8:30 a.m.she was texting me to say her kids were more than ready to go, so we scrambled over there, opened gifts and saved the best for last.

A few weeks ago, I came up with what I thought would be the perfect gift for my daughter who likes to complain how we have no pictures or videos of her (in truth, she’s the second kid and I was newly divorced…). In fact, we have lots of photos of her, but not with me here in CA. I wasn’t even sure where they were when I called my son to see if he could help out. I wanted to put together a photo book of her life so far, but was swamped–could he do it for me? He didn’t even pause before giving me a resounding Yes! and he even had the big ol’ box of photos at his house. It was like a little Christmas miracle.

Over the next two weeks, he got more than a hundred photos scanned and designed the photo book for her, getting input from me via chat, text messages and phone calls during my commute. It was all very secretive and it totally worked.

Christmas morning came and I called my son via FaceTime so he could see as she opened the present, a thousand miles away from him. And he took photos to record the moment (while I took a screenshot).


Seriously, it was the best Christmas I’ve had in a while thanks to her being happy with the gift and the joy of technology bring us together in new and different ways. I miss that kid, but it was really fabulous getting to see him (even if it was on a little screen!).

We finished up the morning by making yet another mess in the kitchen (which my BIL was so kind to just keep cleaning up after us) and made homemade marshmallows using  the delicious Martha Stewart recipe. I’ve made this a few times, but don’t attempt it unless you have a KitchenAid mixer. A hand mixer will never go fast enough and 15 minutes on high would kill the motor anyway. Believe me, I’ve tried. But luckily my sister has a KitchenAid, so we put it to work.


After finishing the marshmallows and divvying up the goodies, we grabbed one pic of all of us and parted ways, with the daughter and I heading out to the desert to visit a friend, and my sister’s family heading to the in-laws. And no, I have no idea why the little one has to look so stone-faced in every single photo I ever take of him. He really is a pretty happy kid, I swear! 20131227-194617.jpg

One of my best buddies from Portland grew up in this neck of the woods and while she’s always headed down “to the desert” for Christmas with her family, it wasn’t until we got out there to visit her this time that I realized quite what she was talking about.

We drove into Lancaster area just as the sun was setting behind us creating an ombre effect in the sky that I really couldn’t catch on camera, but it was mind-blowing. Part of me wanted to stop the car and just stare at all that sky, but the part that wanted to get out to her parents’ house before it was pitch-black won out and we kept on driving.


We wasted away the night chatting, playing games, having some dinner and basically just interrupting their family time, but the next morning (after a breakfast of donuts they bought special for my daughter–so nice!) we headed out for some desert tourism. 20131227-195506.jpgPretty much, it all looks the same. Mile after desolate mile.

But I found the Joshua Trees enchanting. When we’d driven in at nigh, we thought they were cactus and were super excited to see them. Turns out they are a tree instead and a rare one at that. There are all sorts of laws and permit-getting that surround the trees growing and being cut down (a huge no-no) because they survive in only a couple places and take pretty much forever to grow that big.


This is actually in Jaymee’s cousin’s front yard. I was cruel and joked about the lovely landscaping, but seriously, you actually can’t really grow stuff here. You could lay out sod (and she says they’re considering it) but the cost of water to keep it would be ridiculous and besides, grass wasn’t made to grow in the desert. (Frankly, I’m not sure people were either!)

We learned in the backyard that tumbleweed is a real thing and sharp. I only saw one actually tumbling down the road, but there were stories tossed around of tumbleweeds as tall as a man, blocking traffic and frequently causing trouble in the area. After seeing the odd plants, I tend to believe the stories. 20131227-194758.jpg

We visited a couple of movie sets, including this one (Club Ed). It was made for a Dennis Hopper movie, but continues to be used for all sorts of things including something to do with Kim Kardashian. Supposedly she was there just last week, but since it was Boxing Day, the place was empty except for the security guy who just stared menacingly at us as we tromped around taking photos.



The whole place looked like something right out of the first season of Breaking Bad with meth lab trailers and abandoned houses. (But really, can you believe how blue that sky is?!)20131227-194841.jpg

We drove a little further to take a look around the 4 Aces movie set which was featured in the odd little movie, Rubber, and numerous music videos, commercials and films. We grabbed a quick selfie before the security guard there made us leave and took aim for the small town of Little Rock and the infamous Charlie Brown’s Farm.


There we found all sorts of new creations, including deep-fried Twinkies, Mounds bars, Snickers, and pickles. And they clearly need some lessons on being couth because that ad for the rice bowls makes me more than a tad uncomfortable. Yikes. 20131227-194928.jpg

They did have the most delicious Mango smoothie ever though, so that made me like them a little bit. And someone knew what her hat meant which made us both happy after the fellow at the counter asked her if she liked playing golf. 20131227-194940.jpg

Honestly, Charlie Brown’s Farm was one of the stranger places I’ve been to stateside with room upon room of oddities. We bought little matte marbles and a Native America-style painted wolf, alongside chili-cheese fries and the mango smoothie. They offered plenty more, but I think the doll rooms took the cake as the oddest part of the place. 20131227-194956.jpg

And this little guy one as the creepiest doll I have ever seen or ever hope to see. I just keep wondering Why? Who? WTF?20131227-195005.jpg

We didn’t stick around long, eating our lunch outside under the watchful eye of these concrete dinosaurs and flirting tigers. If you look closely to the left of the dino, you’ll see a pterodactyl swooping in, as well. Yeah, it was a weird place.20131227-195025.jpg

But weird is often memorable and I’m pretty sure this trip out to the desert is gonna stick with us for a while. In fact, we’re already planning to head back out to see Vasquez Rocks.


12 Days of Color

It’s not perfect, but I like it anyway. 20131218-134420.jpg

My friend, Scott, of Blue Nickel Studios is counting down the 12 Days of Color and showcasing a different block each day as he counts down. He’s using a bunch of the Konas for the blocks, but I decided to try out Day Four’s design (by the awesome and amazing Katy Jones) in some batiks I had on-hand. Turns out, I kinda like it.

You might notice, it’s not exactly a square like it’s supposed to be. I decided I wanted it to just butt up to all the edges and I’m gonna make it into something else…a pillow? the side of a bag? Any other fabulous ideas out there?