St. Patrick's Day Quilting Bee!

March 17 was both St. Patrick’s Day and World Quilting Day, so to celebrate those two designations I had a few friends and neighbors in for a Quilting Bee.


Here’s the image from the invitation. How ya like the pussyhats I added?

Now, I have to admit that I entered this whole Quilting Bee idea as pretty much a lark – a way to celebrate International Quilting Day and an excuse to get some folks into my home and studio for some socializing and fun.  What I did not anticipate is how seriously all my guests took our task at hand. About twenty folks showed up during the course of the afternoon. Several, almost all of them beginners, sat at the frame and WORKED HARD for several hours, giving us a great start on the project. 


Our Middle Chattahoochee Riverkeeper Outreach Manager Henry Jacobs tries his hand at quilting, assisted by his girlfriend, Robin, and instructed by veteran quilter Virginia. 



We got some serious talkin’ done, too – and lots of laughing. Indications were that a good time was had by all!

Sister Ginger tells a good one.  I think, truth be told, she's describing our mother's meticulous sewing skills.

Sister Ginger tells a good one.  I think, truth be told, she's describing our mother's meticulous sewing skills.


My guess is that a large part of what motivated the St. Patrick’s Day Quilters was the story behind the top we were quilting, and here it is:

Several years ago, I went through a phase of buying unquilted quilt tops off ebay.  They’re cheap, and some of them are beautiful.  I pretty much stopped this practice when after ten or so purchases I realized that, like the original maker, I’d probably never in my lifetime have enough time to get the things quilted.

But back to the St. Patrick’s Day Quilting Bee – As guests arrived, I pointed out that the top features sixteen signatures, as well as the date 1936, embroidered on one of the blocks. I also pointed out that there is no indication as to where – as in location – the quilt came from. But I had done a cursory bit of research and learned that without much doubt the quilt had originated in Springfield, Ohio.  On the bulletin board in my studio, the site of the St. Patrick’s Day Quilting Bee, I had posted a typed list of the names of the signees, along with bits of information I had been able to glean on some of them from the 1930 and 1940 census records of Springfield, Ohio.  I ended my little presentation by announcing that my goal was to, in due fashion, get the top quilted and return it to its community of origin.

I’m still trying to figure out what so motivated my guests at the St. Patrick’s Day Quilting Bee. Maybe it was simply the opportunity to try a hand at quilting. Maybe it was the connection to the women whose names adorn the 1936 quilt top. Maybe it’s the notion of the eventual community exchange.  Maybe it was a combination of all these possibilities, plus the tableful of homemade goodies guests had, unsolicited, brought to the bee.

This is the "before" version. As guests arrived bearing offerings, the table became more heavily laden. 

This is the "before" version. As guests arrived bearing offerings, the table became more heavily laden. 



At any rate, quite a few of us are excited about this project and intend to see it through. I plan to put my own thimble into action and get some serious progress made on the quilt, after which we’ll have a follow-up bee or two to finish the piece. And, eventually, we might even talk about a trip up to Springfield, Ohio, a place I’ve surely never been.

A note about invitations:  I tried to invite folks via Facebook private event, but I’m afraid that some invitees did not see the invitation. (I know that because Facebook shows me a list of who’s seen the invite and who has not.)  My apologies for that.  Next time I’ll try a different method of inviting, to make sure that the invitation is more public.

Many thanks to sister Ginger Swint and husband Fred Fussell for helping host. Special thanks, too, to the veteran quilters who helped instruct others at the frame. Thanks to everybody who brought goodies. And thanks to everybody who came. I look forward to our next Quilting Bee!

Here, for your viewing pleasure, are a few more photos from the bee --




Suzi's Grocery

For the past thirty-plus years, my family and I have been involved in the preservation of Pasaquan, a visionary art site near my hometown of Buena Vista, Georgia.  I encourage you to read about this unique site, and view some eye-popping photographs, available by clicking on the link.

Our involvement with Pasaquan has afforded us opportunities to meet other folks involved in the preservation of visionary art sites around the country.  One of those sites is Margaret’s Grocery in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and one of those people is Suzi Altman, who has worked tirelessly for many years to see to it that Margaret’s Grocery is preserved.  Here's a sneak peek of part of Margaret's Grocery, but I encourage you to click on the site to see more images: 



Last year I was approached by Suzi’s partner, Nancy Anne Branton, with the idea of my creating, as a 2017 birthday and Hanukah surprise for Suzi, a quilt inspired by Margaret’s Grocery.   Nancy’s one request was that I include an image of this piece, a “home-made Menorah” (my quotes) that is an integral component of the much larger site:

Photo by Suzi Altman.

Photo by Suzi Altman.


With great pleasure I accepted Nancy’s commission and immediately set about trying to create a quilt that would recognize the importance of Margaret’s Grocery and of Suzi’s devotion to the site.  Here’s the result:

Suzi's Grocery  48" x 76" 

Suzi's Grocery  48" x 76" 

Here are some close-ups and some photos of the work in progress:

Geography Quilts

It all started with this quilt --

The Alabama River at Gee's Bend. Cotton canvas and denim. 75" x 45" 

The Alabama River at Gee's Bend. Cotton canvas and denim. 75" x 45" 

For years now I have very much admired the work of the quilters of Gee's Bend, Alabama, a place only a couple hours' drive from my home in Columbus, Georgia. I've never visited Gee's Bend, though, so in anticipation of a planned trip I started looking at maps. Immediately I was struck by the shape of the Alabama River -- the curves, the path, the course of the river. And I wanted to quilt it. 

This was my first serious foray into free motion quilting, and I got into trouble fast. I hadn't properly secured the three layers -- backing, batting and top -- and not long after I began the echo quilting I'd planned, everything started to shift and creep and crawl.  I had to compensate by departing from the echos and quilting where I needed to quilt -- if that makes any sense. The result is what you see above -- quilting lines that wound up looking a lot like topographical lines, or, in my mind, furrows in plowed fields -- cotton fields. 

Intrigued now with the concept of quilting topographical lines, my next topo project was this one -- 

Singer-Moye Mounds, Stewart county, Georgia. Cotton canvas.

Singer-Moye Mounds, Stewart county, Georgia. Cotton canvas.

As the caption indicates, that's a plat of the Singer-Moye Indian mound site in Stewart County, Georgia. The lines are true topographic lines. 

Inspired by what I thought was the success of my Alabama River quilt, I began to look for good, usable images of my own "home rivers," the Chattahoochee and the Flint, which at the Florida state line join to form the Apalachicola. I've lived all of my adult life practically on the banks of the Chattahoochee. I grew up smack dab in the middle of the Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola watershed. As a kid I spent many fun weekends and vacations at the camp my extended family owned on the Flint.  And after I grew up and had my own family, our vacations often took us down to Apalachicola, where the River runs into the Gulf of Mexico.  All this to say, I have a long and loving history with the Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola. 

After an extensive search ("Quiltable" images of rivers are not always easy to find.), I finally found one I liked and made this -- 


Friends saw this and started to ask about buying it, so I wound up making quite a few and selling them. I made different versions -- some for throw pillows, some stretched for framing, some in other colors, sizes. I'm still making and selling these.

In my search for a good image for the Chattahoochee-Flint-Apalachicola basin, I'd run across an online site featuring images of each state's rivers. Thus began the project that would occupy me for the next couple of months -- 


And many more ... You get the idea ...

But I was still intrigued by the idea of topographical lines -- earth contour lines -- as quilting lines, and I returned to that idea. Here's the result:

Sprewell Bluff on the Flint River in central Georgia. 

Sprewell Bluff on the Flint River in central Georgia. 

And that's where my heart is right now. I want to make many more topo quilts. And I plan to. I'm on a temporary haitus from them because I'm away from my home studio and all my carefully accumulated supplies and equipment, but I look forward to resuming my topographical quilt series when I get home in late June. 

My Studio in England

Once again Columbus State University, the institution from which I retired almost six years ago now, has afforded me the opportunity to spend time in Oxford, England. I’ll be here for six months, serving as Site Director for Spencer House, CSU’s student residence in Oxford. I’ve been here in that capacity twice before, but for three months each of those other times. This will be my first six-monther in England, and I’m thrilled to be here. So is my husband, Fred Fussell, who's here with me.

One of the biggest challenges with leaving home for an extended period of time, obviously, is leaving my studio. I love my home studio, which is tricked out with supplies and equipment and tools that I’ve spent more than 50 years accumulating. It is not without some trepidation that I leave that fine space behind for six months.

During my previous two sojourns in Oxford I’ve tried to occupy myself with knitting, but knitting doesn’t do it for me. I just keep knitting and knitting and knitting, and I wind up going home with a suitcase full of eight-foot-long scarves that I don’t even like very much.  (I’m not a very good knitter, truth be told.)

Oh, I did hand-quilt a whole, big quilt the last time I was here. And I’m proud of that – but I missed piecing – the construction, from scratch, of quilt tops – a process I’ve come to love.  

My past experience, along with the fact that I’m going to be here for such a long spell this time, prompted me to give serious consideration to what I could do to kick my British quilting experience up a notch. What I decided to do was to set up a temporary, minimal studio, bringing from home the very barest of favorite tools, and adding a very few necessary ones after I got here. So that’s what I’ve been doing.  Here’s what I brought with me:


You’ll note that my thimble, lined with moleskin which you cannot see, is front and center. So is my seam ripper – not that I couldn’t get one of those over here – but it fit into the container nicely. I also included a generic walking foot and a generic darning foot, which you probably can’t discern in the photo. I did not even bring a pair of scissors.   No rotary cutter, no self-healing cutting mat. It was hard to leave those babies behind, I’m tellin’ ya!


I did find this pair of scissors in a drawer here in Spencer House, though – and they work just fine!

My next step was a sewing machine. I gave some consideration to dragging one of mine over here, but I despise having to keep up with tons of luggage, and I thought it made more sense to buy an inexpensive machine after I got here. So that’s what I did. On our second day here Fred and I found our way to a Hobbycraft store (their version, sorta, of Hobby Lobby) and bought a bottom-of-the-line beginner Singer for 79 British pounds. That’s about a hundred bucks. I’ve had very good luck with these el-cheapo Singers back home, having used one as my exclusive machine for many years, only two years ago amping up my game with a more expensive Juki. I still use my 15-year-old hundred-dollar Singer from time to time. Anyway, I bought the little Singer, walked and bussed it back here to Spencer House, set up, and got going.


Oh, you’ll note the fabrics on the table. I did bring a stash of hand-dyed fabrics from home – in my carry-on.

My hope – and my thinking behind all this, really – is that returning to my roots – returning to a simpler approach – working with the only tools my grandmother had – will be good for me. It’s taking some adjustment, but so far it’s working. I miss my rotary cutter and two big ol’ cutting mats. I miss my design wall. I miss my spray adhesive, my non-slip tabletops, my specially designed ironing surface, my set-in sewing machine tables … But I’m doing okay so far, I think.  Here’s the first piece I’ve made, very much still a work-in-progress –

This piece was inspired, in part, by a painting Fred did before we left home --



Oh, one more thing I want to say about my studio here in England – This ill-fitting moo-cow ironing board cover and I are scheduled for a parting of the ways!



A quilter whose work I really admire is Sherri Lynn Wood. I've never met Sherri, but I keep up with her thru her blog,  

Here's one of my all-time favorite quilts in the world -- made by Sherri a few years ago --

I snagged that photo from Sherri's blog, by the way.

Sherri also leads a Facebook group called The Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters, which is also the title of a book she published, a copy of which I own.

So, suffice it to say that I'm a Sherri Lynn Wood fan.

Sherri's latest project is something she's calling #makedochallenge and giveaway. You can read all the details on her blog, but here's a brief synopsis:  Concerned about the huge, world-wide problem of textile waste, Sherri is encouraging quilters to make more quilts from discarded fabric.  That is, to recycle. Of course, quilters have been recycling for years and years and years. (Think "patchwork.") And some folks who don't know much about quilting think that's all we ever do. But they're worng. Nowadays we quilters are much more likely to run to the fabric store or the internet and invest in new fabric every time we start a new project. I know I do.  Sherri's prompt got me thinking, though, and I'm determined to try to use more recycled fabric. 

One part of Sherri's project involves our posting photos of our projects in which we've used recycled fabrics.  Here are two of mine, below, featuring men's plaid shirts I bought at Goodwill. I still have the pockets and collars and cuffs and plackets and plan on using some of those in some project or other in the future.  

"Neighborhoods," Cathy Fussell, 2015.

"Neighborhoods," Cathy Fussell, 2015.

"Virgo," Cathy Fussell, 2015. 

"Virgo," Cathy Fussell, 2015. 




Something I've failed to mention thus far is the fact that my husband, Fred Fussell, who is an artist, a painter, was asked to produce a painting that would be used for the cover design for the printed program for the First Lady's Luncheon! The committee asked that he paint a Southern scene featuring Georgia agricultural products -- pecans, peaches, peanuts, blueberries ... He threw in cotton and pink marble, and a gazebo. I thought it turned out right lovely: 

They added a nice cut-out cover to the program so that it looked like this:

Our understanding is that the painting will be auctioned with the proceeds going to a charitable cause.

Now to the event -- Actually there were three events, or three stages to the event.  But we didn't know that until we arrived. We had been told that there would be about 1500 folks at the luncheon. We were not at all sure how or even whether we would actually get to meet the First Lady. But that was okay. We were just happy to be in attendance and to have had the opportunity to make things for her. 

As instructed, we arrived at the Washington Hilton at 10:30 AM. "We" was Fred; our daughter, Coulter; and myself. Lots of dressed up women, and a few men, were gathering there in the lobby. Some of them wore nametags with names that I recognized -- McGovern, Ryan, Kennedy, Gingrey, Lott, Reid, Pelosi (Mr. Paul, who, I gathered, is a popular and well-liked character). 

We approached a table to check ourselves in, and that's where we learned that we had tickets to a VIP pre-event reception. Boom, yeah!  At about 11:00 the doors to the VIP Reception were opened and we made our way into a room where about a hundred people gathered. Word was that Mrs. Obama would likely arrive shortly. But she didn't. As time for the big event drew near, we were told that the First Lady had been delayed by a security issue, and that she likely would not be present in time for the VIP reception.

At the very last few minutes before the big event, though, Event Chair Vivian Creighton Bishop went to the microphone and announced the names of a few people who were to go to a certain door.  Our names -- mine and Fred's -- were called! 

Is this becoming too tedious?  Hope not, 'cause we're just gettin' to the good part. Fred and I followed Mrs. Bishop's instructions and were rushed -- yes, RUSHED -- into a small backstage room where three small groups of people were already waiting.  One group was the twelve or so teenage girls, all dressed identically, who were the "Junior Hostesses" for the event. I learned that they were the daughters and granddaughters and great granddaughters of former members of Congress and government officials. One was the great granddaughter of the Honorable Thurgood Marshall! (I learned this later from the printed program.)

The second group gathered there in the little backstage room was the luncheon planning committee -- a group of about twenty lively and animated women who all seemed to know each other. 

The third group was us -- the group of eight folks, six from Columbus, Georgia, who had, at the request of the luncheon committee, brought special gifts for the First Lady. 

The three groups of us were firmly but politely put into position for three group photographs, with a spot for Mrs. Obama in each grouping. 

For about three minutes we stood there nervously awaiting her arrival. All of a sudden two Secret Service agents entered and stood on either side of the entrance, and then Mrs. Obama herself appeared in the door. She was wearing a bright orange chiffon dress and looked absolutely radiant. She went around the room, one group at a time, shaking hands with and having a few words with each person before she posed for a photo with the group.  Our group was last.

What struck me most about Mrs. Obama was her warmth and her energy, both of which she exuded in abundance. Though she only had time for a handshake and a few words with each of us, she focused on each person individually as she went down the line. She seemed to relate particularly to the teenage girls, several of whom she hugged, including B.J. Chipman in our group, who had painted a portrait of Malia and Sasha to give to Mrs. Obama.

This backstage event lasted only about ten minutes. After all the individual greetings and the three group photos, Mrs. Obama and her entourage left the room, and we rushed to our places in the grand ballroom for the main event -- the luncheon. 

As far as I was concerned, though, the main event had already occurred. I was deeply moved to have been in the presence of Michelle Obama. 

Okay -- Now to the luncheon -- About 1500 people were seated at round tables in this giant ballroom with a raised runway down the middle, an entrance area on one end and the head table on the other. Huge tv screens surrounded the room, so that if your sight line wasn't perfect for the head table, you could watch one of the monitors. Before the program started, and at intervals throughout, Fred's painting was featured on the screen -- over and over again, for everybody to see!  That was really exciting for us.

The whole Georgia delegation, of which we were a part, was seated directly in front of the head table -- down front and center!  Representative Sanford Bishop was back-to-back with me, so we chatted and shared excited reactions from time to time.  He was recording the whole thing on his iPad, and it was obvious that he was very proud of Vivian and the tremendous job she and her committee had done with the event.

I would describe the luncheon itself as a cross between a huge sorority party and a military gala -- as if I've ever attended either -- ha! 

Vivian Creighton Bishop presided and introduced a whole slew of distinguished guests, many of whom were escorted down the runway by uniformed military personnel. 

I was hoping that the gifts -- my quilt, B.J.'s portrait, a piece of Alma Thomas ceramic work given by Thomas's great-nephew Charles Lewis -- would be displayed and presented directly to the First Lady. But that was not the case. They were announced, though. And a photo of my quilt was displayed on the tv screens that surrounded the room! There it was! For about five seconds.

The other highlight of the luncheon was Mrs. Obama's speech. Within seconds of her assuming the podium she had established rapport with the audience. Her speech was indeed wonderful -- in its content, its delivery ...   By this time I was on total sensory overload and can't remember the whole speech, but I do remember that the most significant part of it, to me, was when she pointed out to all those Congressional and other governmental spouses there that "we" -- she included herself -- as spouses, are in positions that allow us, if we will,  to temper some of the contentiousness that dwells in politics today. She said it much more eloquently than I just did. 

At the conclusion of the First Lady's speech, we were treated to performances by three musicians, two of whom, at least, are Grammy Award winners and also Georgians -- Tasha Cobbs (gospel), Monica (pop), and a young man who sang and danced but whose name I did not catch. The printed program indicates that Timbaland performed, but I know what Timbaland looks like, and that was not Timbaland. At any rate, the young man was a fine performer and had us on our feet. All three of the performers were outstanding. Mrs. Obama was up there at the head table rockin' out!

The entertainment over and the audience in high gear,  Mrs. Bishop again assumed the podium, thanked her committee members, and concluded the ceremony. We were all asked to remain in our seats until Mrs. Obama was escorted from the room, which, of course, we did.

Once the ceremony was over and we were able to stand and socialize, it was obvious that we were all absolutely giddy. At least, the Georgia delegation surely was! Mrs. Obama had indeed lit up the room. What had started out as an interesting but little bit confusing "dress up party" had turned into a tremendous celebratory event of which we Georgians can be proud. 

Oh, I need to say somewhere in here that, unlike most banquets I've ever attended, the food was great! The menu featured Georgia products -- you know -- peaches, pecans, blueberries, Vidalia onions, chicken, sweet potatoes, corn ... Really good, well-prepared food. 

Okay -- I'll hush and show you a couple of photos. Our official photo has not yet arrived in the mail, and I fear that it may be lost -- but here's one that somebody took as our official photo was being shot.  I'm the shortest one in the group, in an aqua blouse. Apologies for that pinched expression on my face. I don't know what was up with that. And my hair -- well, I don't know what happened with that, either. 

L-R: Florene Dawkins, Fred Fussell, Cathy Fussell, Charles Lewis (Alma Thomas's great-nephew), First Lady Michelle Obama, B.J. Chipman. The three folks to the right of B.J. are her grandmother, her mother, and Frank Mastoris.

L-R: Florene Dawkins, Fred Fussell, Cathy Fussell, Charles Lewis (Alma Thomas's great-nephew), First Lady Michelle Obama, B.J. Chipman. The three folks to the right of B.J. are her grandmother, her mother, and Frank Mastoris.

Oh, and here's a photo of the letter we received, a week after the event, from none other than First Lady Michelle Obama!







I told you I'd be back with more details about the process of making this quilt whose "real name" is "Apollo Revisited: Homage to Alma Woodsey Thomas." 

First, I'm very grateful to Florene Dawkins and Vivian Creighton Bishop for contacting me early enough so that I had plenty of time to experiment, think, experiment some more ... Florene first contacted me in June of 2015, and the event wasn't to be held until May of 2016, so I had almost a year to produce the quilt. 

Second, I very much appreciate Florene and Vivian's giving me free rein to make whatever I wanted, so long as it was "inspired by the work of Alma Thomas." I understood that if the quilt were eventually gifted to the First Lady it would first have to have approval from them and their committee, of course, but they were very generous in their trust of me, and that trust was most helpful to my creative process.

I'm not much of a procrastinator, so I got started right away.  First, of course, I took a very close look at Alma Thomas's body of work.  So much good stuff!  

I was particularly drawn to Thomas's circular pieces, in part, I think, because I knew that Michelle Obama must like them, her having chosen this one, "Resurrection," for the White House Dining Room: 

Photo from ARTNEWS.

Photo from ARTNEWS.

Isn't that beautiful?  Google "Alma Thomas and White House" and you'll find more images of it. I think it's perfect for that spot. 

My first thought was to replicate that very painting, "Resurrection," in fabric. But as I continued to study Thomas's work, I was more drawn to this one -- "Apollo Splashdown, 1970" --

Photo from

Photo from

My attraction to this painting, and my interest in replicating it in fabric, had a lot to do with the fact that it features so much blue -- so many blues. I love blue, and I also thought that I might be able to use a good deal of denim, which for a number of reasons I love to use. One of those reasons is the fact that Columbus has, over the past 150 or so years, produced a great percentage of the world's denim. A second reason has to do with the fact that I now live and work in a loft apartment inside the building that once housed the mill that produced that denim -- Swift Manufacturing Company. 

I experimented with a small piece that I made into a pillow:

While I liked the pillow fine, I thought that the tone, the value, of the denim wasn't as "bright" as what an Alma Thomas-inspired piece called for.  Denim has a white thread in it, you know, and Thomas's colors are true and clear and bright. 

So I ditched the denim idea and went with cotton duck, which comes in an array of full, bright colors.  

Maybe I should back up and say that at first I experimented with "regular quilt fabrics," what we call Kona weight cottons. But they would have required precise piecing or applique, with clean, turned-under edges, and I thought that the canvas duck, with its  strength and raw edges, better replicated Thomas's brush strokes.

Okay -- Now I'm gonna hush and just let you look at some photos of me at work.  Except let me tell you one more thing -- Each and every piece of that canvas was individually cut out by me -- carefully, thoughtfully, with scissors -- and then, using a darning foot, sewn down to the canvas twice around.  (After all, I didn't want Michelle Obama's quilt to fall apart!) That took a while, and some wrangling. I needed an intern to stand on the other side of the machine and help me wrangle. Fred did actually help with that a few times.

After I got all the "dots" sewn down (I did, literally, see them in my sleep!), I sandwiched the thing -- That is, I layered the completed top with a layer of batting (wool) and a backing -- and I started machine quilting -- in circles, 'round and 'round.  I hand-quilted the center, though.  Hand-quilting is really my thing, and while the canvas and duck were much too heavy and thick for hand-quilting the whole quilt, I did want to include a bit of hand-quilting -- so there it is in the center.  

Finally, I bound the edges, added a label and hanging sleeve, and the finished quilt was ready to be submitted to committee. The date was July 31.  I had spent two weeks in June experimenting, but by the first of July I had decided my materials and method and had begun work. I worked every day during the month of July -- four weeks -- several hours each day -- to complete the work. It was a labor of love.

My thinking was that if the committee didn't like the quilt I'd made, I had plenty of time to make another -- or another -- or another ... But they liked the first one, and it was eventually shipped to Washington for the event.

So now I really am gonna shut up and show you some photos:

Obviously, I didn't "primp" for the photos -- ha! I'm in work mode.

Obviously, I didn't "primp" for the photos -- ha! I'm in work mode.

I worked from a glossy photo of Alma Thomas's painting, pictured in foreground. 

I worked from a glossy photo of Alma Thomas's painting, pictured in foreground. 

The thing grew and grew ...

"Apollo Revisited: Homage to Alma Woodsey Thomas" by Cathy Fussell.

"Apollo Revisited: Homage to Alma Woodsey Thomas" by Cathy Fussell.






One of the reasons I haven't been blogging lately is that I have a theory that every minute I spend blogging I'm not quilting. But the other reason is that I had a secret I couldn't share yet -- and that was that I had been asked to make a quilt for First Lady Michelle Obama!  Yes, you read that right.  Here's the story:

It all started in 1891, with the birth here in my town of Columbus, Georgia, of one Alma Thomas. If you read that link you'll learn that Alma grew up to become a well-known artist -- so well-known, in fact, that -- fast forward many years -- she came to be a favorite of First Lady Michelle Obama, who has added three Alma Thomas paintings to the White House collection.  One hangs in the White House dining room.  Here's a photo of it here.   I so love it!

Fast forward another little while and I come into the picture when I was asked, by Vivian Creighton Bishop, the wife of our U.S. Representative Sanford Bishop, to make an Alma Thomas-inspired quilt to be presented to the First Lady at the 2016 Congressional Club First Lady's Luncheon, of which Mrs. Bishop was chair.

So I did.  The event took place on May 12, 2016. 

To say I was honored to be able to do this is an understatement of enormous proportion. I only hope that the First Lady likes the quilt, and that I have done honor to Alma Thomas and to our town of Columbus, Georgia. 

Here's a photo of the finished quilt, before it got shipped off to Washington: 

Specifically inspired by Alma Thomas's painting titled "Apollo Splashdown 1970," I named this quilt "Apollo Revisited: Homage to Alma Woodsey Thomas." 

I owe tremendous thanks to my friend Florene Dawkins, who knew my quilting and who knew of my long-time interest in the work of Alma Thomas, and who suggested to Mrs. Bishop that I be asked to make the quilt.

In a later post I'll write about my process and about the decisions that went into designing and making the quilt.

Oh, and when the official photos of me with the First Lady arrive, I'll post those, too. 

Home From Mississippi

Returned home a few days ago from having taught the second and final session of our Rail Fence Workshop at YaloRun out in Water Valley, Mississippi. Boy, what some great students I was lucky enough to have had! I'll let their work demonstrate:

First-time quilter Susan Blackmon Watson with her terrific creation!

First-time quilter Susan Blackmon Watson with her terrific creation!

Christy Cox White's creation -- a work of art!

Christy Cox White's creation -- a work of art!

A born quilter right here ...

A born quilter right here ...

I myself can no longer plop down on the floor to work, but some folks can!  Thank goodness we had plenty of chairs available for some of us -- ha!

I myself can no longer plop down on the floor to work, but some folks can!  Thank goodness we had plenty of chairs available for some of us -- ha!

Unfortunately, we failed to get photos of all seven quilt tops. We eventually will, though. The plan here is that they spent class time choosing fabrics, designing, piecing, sandwiching, and taking the first few quilting stitches. Now they're on their own to quilt. I gave a demonstration of how to apply binding, and we encouraged everybody to come back to the studio for some Coulter-help if they need it.  We're planning on having a reunion, with lots of photos, when everybody's finished. At the rate they're going, that won't be too long in the future!

Michelle brought in her completed quilt from the first workshop I taught at YaloRun, back in the fall. The subject for that workshop was my Relaxed Tumbler pattern. Michelle rocked it! 

"Every Which Way ...

... But Loose" is what I'm calling this top I just finished piecing --

Made from re-purposed plaid shirts I bought at Goodwill, this top is composed of 4-inch squares, 6-inch squares, 8-inch squares, 10-inch squares, and 12-inch squares. Each square is fine-line pieced using the method devised by Kathleen Loomis, an art quilter whose work I very much admire.  Here are her instructions for fine-line piecing, which I adapted a little bit. 

My plans are to machine-quilt this top, in moderately dense straight horizontal lines -- but I might decide to add a border first.  What do you think?  Should I add a border?  If so, what color? How wide? 

If the weather allows, I'll leave tomorrow to drive out to daughter Coulter's YaloRUN Textile Studio in Water Valley, Mississippi, to teach the second half of a beginner Rail Fence quilt workshop. I look forward to seeing what the seven students have produced. A few of them have posted some fine sneak peeks on Facebook. I can't wait to see all of them!  Check back in a few days for photos and a report.  




My Gracie Bee floor frame for quilting arrived today!  For a while now I'd been yearning for one of these, and I finally broke down and bought one. I'm thinking that if I wind up not enjoying it, I can always pass it off to daughter for her studio, where group quilting bees might be very much a thing. But I'm gonna give it a good try first.  

I used to have a floor frame -- years and years ago -- but it never was a very well constructed one -- or maybe the problem was with me -- and I finally gave it away. Settling into an easy chair with a hoop frame certainly has its appeal, but after a few frustrations with hoop wonkiness, and the inherent problem of not being able to see the whole quilt while the quilt is hooped, I decided to try the floor frame again.

Obviously, I've already started to put the thing together. The hardest part so far has been getting all the parts outta that long, skinny box!

Oh, that vintage top draped over the chair in the background is slated to be the Gracie Bee guinea pig quilt.  Okay -- if you prefer "inaugural" ...  But don't hold your breath, 'cause I plan on finishing a couple of other projects before I attack the Gracie Bee in earnest. Stay tuned.


Arrived back home in Georgia yesterday, having spent several days out in Water Valley, Mississippi, at daughter Coulter's YaloRUN Studio, where I taught the first half of a workshop on the Rail Fence quilt pattern -- to beginners.  The class sold out at 7 participants -- the number of sewing machines at YaloRUN -- and a good time was had by all!  I've never had such a completely focused, hard-working group as this one.  For real!  And all the different design and color choices were terrific!  Everybody finished cutting strips and sewing long strips together. A few even got started assembling blocks. I was particularly impressed with all the creative designs and color choices.  We'll all meet back in two weeks, theoretically with finished tops, for the second half of the workshop when we'll make quilt sandwiches and begin to hand quilt.  

Here are a few photos from the workshop:

I look forward to going back out to Mississippi for the second half of the workshop on January 24. Can't wait to see what everybody's made!


I usually try to keep at least one machine-focused project going at the same time that I have at least one hand-work project going. That way, when I get tired with one -- or physically challenged -- I can switch to the other.  Here's my current machine work -- 

I don't know yet exactly what I'm going to do with it -- how big it'll be or how  I'm going to join all the squares -- but I do know that I want to keep the squares, and in their various sizes -- so we'll see ... 

I really am enjoying the fine-line piecing. It's tedious and slow, but fun. The plaids are left over from the plaid shirts I used to make the cityscape quilt titled "Virgo."

Here's the handwork I'm currently working on -- a twin-sized quilt titled "Nautica" --

I do love to execute some free-flowing lines of big-stitch quilting.  It's sorta my Zen thing.

I'm leaving tomorrow morning to drive out to my daughter Coulter's studio in Water Valley, Mississippi -- YaloRun Textiles -- to teach a workshop on Rail Fence Quilts.  I look forward to working with Coulter and to meeting new students. 

A little Rail Fence piece I made the last time I visited YaloRUN.


I've been a b-a-a-a-d blogger this past year. (A whole year since my last post! Yikes!) But I'm determined to do better in the coming year, so here goes --

Here's a photo of my studio, all spiffed up and serving as my gallery, at last month's Swift Mill Lofts Open Studio and Art Sale. 

Well, this is one wall of my studio. This is about half of the quilts that I offered. Sales were good, I am happy to say! Many thanks to everybody who visited, and very special thanks to those who purchased. I hope you enjoy your quilt!

Last month’s sale was the first time I’ve ever really truly offered quilts for sale, but it won’t be the last. In fact, I’ve added a sales component here on my blog.  Check out the “SHOP” tab at the top of this page.

But back to 2015. Here are some my quilt accomplishments –

·         I completed 25 pieces and made significant progress on 3 more;

·         I taught two workshops – one here in my own studio and one at daughter Coulter’s YaloRun Studio out in Mississippi. I also gave two lectures – one here and one there.

·         I had four quilts accepted into juried shows -- 

1.      “William Faulkner’s AS I LAY DYING Graphic Novel Version” into Studio Art Quilt Association’s SOUTHERN ACCENTS exhibit at Ruth Fun Center for Textile Arts in Melbourne, Florida.

2.      “Abby’s Quilt” and “Livi’s Quilt” into Bulloch Hall Quilt Show, Roswell, Georgia.

3.      “Hillsides of North Alabama” into Quiltcon 2015 in Portland, Oregon, where it won second place in hand-quilting.

4.      “Satsuma” has been accepted into Quilting 2016 in Pasadena, California, where it will be exhibited in February.

·         I received a “celebrity commission” which I cannot write about yet.  More to come later this year.  (Apologies for being so secretive, but …)

·         I joined Studio Art Quilt Association and attended my first SAQA conference – in Melbourne, Florida. It won’t be the last. Many thanks to my quilting friend JoAnn Camp for encouraging me to join SAQA!

·         My quilting and I were the cover story for the December issue of ART CURRENTS magazine.

·         I committed to making a Carson McCullers quilt for an international literary conference, celebrating Carson McCullers’ 100th birthday, to be held in Rome, Italy, in the summer of 2017. (Can’t wait to get started! Can’t wait to go back to Rome!)

·         I continued to work on my studio and now have it near-perfect.

·         I ordered floor frames for hand-quilting and look forward to their arrival within the next few days.

·         I created this website.


Maybe it’s time for some resolutions:

I hereby resolve –

·         To continue to hone my skills and to explore new means of artistic expression in fiber.

·         To maintain this website.

·         To work toward settling the lighting issues in my studio.

·         To teach a few more classes and reach a conclusion regarding balance of time between teaching and quilting.

·         To continue to keep my detailed quilt journal.

·         To travel to at least one major art quilt exhibit.

·         To give more consideration to the creation of a quilt series. (My work is all over the place; some would say I need to focus my work by creating a series.)

·         And, of course, I have a number of quilt-specific goals already – for instance, “to make a xxxxx quilt,” “to make a yyyyy quilt,” “to make a zzzzz quilt” … but I won’t get into all those details here. You’d better believe they’re in my journal, though!



Salvaging a Tulip

One of the current projects I'm working on involves this tulip quilt top, which I bought off ebay. At least, I think it's a tulip. Maybe it's a poppy -- or some other flower?  At any rate, I bought the top because I liked the colors and the flowers and the vines and leaves.  I wasn't wild about the big blocks of solid red, though ...

So I took the thing apart and started playing around with it ...

Well, that didn't work ... So I played around some more and came to this "four-block" arrangement, which I really love --

Next step (after I work out a few piecing kinks) is to decide on borders -- and there are lots of examples from vintage quilts.  Plus, I have all that leftover red to work with! Stay tuned ...