American Vision Quilts

I finished my American Vision quilts today. These are two quilts that I started on the day Trump was elected. I was very surprised by the turn of events, as I had not been paying very close attention to the American election. So I turned on the radio and listened to endless radio commentary, both American and Irish, as I started piecing these quilts.

The majority of the patterned fabric is from an American friend of mine. She collected it over the years but never used it, she is a terrific friend and is the one who first introduced me to quilting. She said the fabric wouldn’t be good for a single quilt as it’s all quite unrelated. But that’s perfect for this pattern – no two fabrics touch each other! Plus it’s balanced out by the solid colored fabric, literally balanced 50/50 – quite like the American election.

The idea was to make one in plum color for her, as that’s her favorite color, and one in turquoise for me, my favorite color. However, now that I see them together I don’t think I’ll be able to separate them. The question now is how to get them to her. I don’t know if I can put them into the mail, I’d be too worried about them!


Some say quilts are like babies… so I suppose these are my first twins.

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Reading Books

Reading books is a great pasttime of mine. I always find time to read a bit. I posed a challenge to myself about a year ago to start keeping a book journal, and I’ve kept one on my computer with notes on each book I’ve read. I am happy to report that I read about 24 books in the space of 12 months, and they cover a wide arrange of subjects from non-fiction to bubblegum fiction. I am now posing myself a new challenge this new year, to read books of the genre and type that I want to write myself and keep a book journal on those books.

Way back when I was younger, I wanted to be a writer. I wanted to write kid’s books for kids of about age 8 – 14. I actually feel more strongly than ever that it is important to write for this age group now that I have a kid of my own. Most kids are reading less as they have more access to electronics with video games and other passive, time eating activities. It echoes in my head “be part of the solution.” The more books that are out there that kids want to read, the more likely they are to get into the habit. Because in the end, reading is a habit and we are all creatures of habit to some extent.

Here are some of my favorite books of the year. In no particular order:

Bounce by Matthew Syed. This is about the myth of talent and the importance of practice. I am a strong believer in working hard. This book is quite empowering, and Syed has a very engaging back story. I still can’t shake the belief that there is an element of talent – I could never have been a champion ski jumper! But I really did enjoy this book.

Evensong by Gail Godwin. This is an extremely dense book with complex characters. I found the ideas of this book particularly strong, and enjoyed the humor as well. My favorite quote from a very transient character is “At some point you have to decide whether you want to live dying or die living.”

Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton. I am a big fan of Sue Grafton, as this is her autobiographical work. In it she writes about Kinsey who is the main character of her alphabet mysteries and her relationship to her own fictional character. I found it fascinating to see how Sue and Kinsey are different yet alike, and how she actually feels the presence of Kinsey in her life.

Kate Shugak series, numbers 5 and 16 by Dana Stabenow. I discovered this mystery series set in Alaska a few years ago and have read through to 5, and then I found 16, skipping 10 books. This was probably not the best idea because characters die and change over the course of those books! However, I love the writing and small town Alaska comes alive for me, it’s a different world. I find the character of Kate Shugak very likeable even though we have next to nothing in common – the mark of a terrific writer!

I love reading books. Perhaps some day there will be a book out there that I have written, that kids will love reading. I will work very hard to make this happen, as Syed’s book shows, everything worthwhile must be worked towards, and the harder you work, the more likely you are to succeed.

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Piano Teacher

Last month I took my Royal Irish Acacademy of Music (RIAM) piano exam, Grade 8. It is the first testing of this kind that I have ever attempted, as none of my teachers did any testing of this sort. I studied classical piano on and off when I was younger, then when I graduated college I re-learned piano to play jazz and rock’n’roll. I’ve always maintained my love of classical music.

I picked three pieces to learn for the RIAM exam – Bach’s Prelude in F minor, Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, and Debussy’s Golliwog’s Cakewalk. I began practicing these pieces in September 2015 with some help from my son’s piano teacher, and he also helped me to tackle the long list of scales and arpeggios. It was a bit daunting at first (especially the scales) but I got through it, practice practice practice! Here’s a photo of my hand on exam day, just before the exam.


I am pleased to report that the test went well and I earned a Distinction, so now I am officially able to put my own students through RIAM testing. My piano studio will just be a few students in my home. I don’t plan to advertise, just find students that I can connect with. Music teaches discipline, and I also think it is important to find the joy in music. Music can enrich your life in so many ways, and I will do my best to provide that as a piano teacher myself.

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I discovered Morsbags from a magazine I picked up at the Birmingham Quilts Festival. I read an interview with the lady who founded Morsbags years ago in the UK. She created Morsbags as an organized way to replace plastic bags with washable, handmade bags made preferably from recycled fabrics. Morsbags have since spread around the world and there are more than 210,000 Morsbags out there. You can read more of the story at their website:

I made my first Morsbags out of a set of curtains sitting in my closet that didn’t fit my windows. They are IKEA curtains with a lovely purple color and I had no idea what to do with that lump of fabric. I made 14 Morsbags from the one set of curtains! I then did a demo in my quilting group where I made up kits to give to my fellow quilters and did a demonstration of the Morsbag technique, sewing one Morsbag live. I gave out 30 kits in all, and I know I’ve inspired a few quilters. Morsbags make great gifts for Christmas.

Here’s what my first cutting session looked like with those IKEA curtains:


My display of Morsbags on the night of my live demonstration:


Now I have a new pile of fabric, mostly old curtains, ready to be made into Morsbags for Christmas gifts. I will be mailing them around the world to all my friends and family. I don’t think any of them read my blog so I am not spoiling any surprise!

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Christmas Bee Quilt

In 2015 I took part in a quilting bee, where every month you make two blocks for one of twelve quilters. The “queen bee” gets to dictate the block types each month. I was lucky enough to be queen in December and I mailed everyone green and gold striped fabric. Of course everyone is very busy in December but I did eventually get (nearly) all of them – I received 18 blocks plus my 2 and that was a perfect amount to make my quilt of 20 blocks! I just finished quilting the piece last week and I’m very happy with how it came out. The same stripey fabric worked especially well on the binding.


I used this as a quilting exercise where every block is quilted differently. I quilted the sashing and border first so that I could completely unpin each square while I was quilting it. That’s not exactly the “right” way to do it but it worked well for my purposes.


This quilt will be put into the Modern Irish Quilter exhibition called “Fun” next year and I’m hoping that many of the quilters who contributed blocks will be able to come and view the quilt. The last exhibition of the Modern Irish Quilters had many of the bee quilts from the previous year and that’s what inspired me to join the quilting bee. I enjoyed watching everyone go up to quilts on display and finding their blocks!

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Birmingham Festival of Quilts 2016

This year’s Festival of Quilts was an inspiring and fun event. Irish quilters could be found all around, perhaps more there than in Ireland itself! I put three pieces in this year, and they were all related. I started with the Irish chain, which I believe technically has nothing to do with Ireland, but I pretended that it did and took it from there.

Irish Postcard

Every country submitted 16 small “postcards” which had to include a stamp of some sort to represent their country. I made a small Irish chain with buttons on it. I wanted to see if I thought the idea was good enough to make it larger…


Big Hoot

I decided I liked my Irish chain enough to enlarge it and use as a backdrop for my idea with the Big Hoot owls. I took the inspiration of the Big Hoot that was held in Birmingham City last year and used the shape to make scrappy owls. All of the fabric for the owls is from my stash, so it is a bit of a memory quilt for me. Each large owl has a set of buttons for eyes, and the small owls have crystals for eyes. My favorite comment is from a stranger, “Great use of buttons!” This is my first large piece in Birmingham, and I felt the judges were very kind to me and understood the piece. I’m very pleased with how it turned out.



Mobius Hoot

I took some of the leftover little owls and incorporated them into a mobius band. I like to put some sort of a mathematical object in every year, and this year was not sure what to do. I entered a mobius band to the Birmingham show two years ago, but have come quite a long way with my sewing since then. I love how this turned out, it looks so much better than my piece from two years ago!


I am only a little bit behind – Birmingham Festival of Quilts took place in early August. So much for keeping up with my blog! I have a good backlog now though so I am going to try to power through a few more entries in the next week…

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Classical Music

I’ve played many different instruments over the years in lots of different styles, but lately I’ve found myself back at my “roots” – classical piano. I’ve been studying for a level 8 piano exam that would allow me to officially teach piano. I am learning 3 different classical pieces (a Bach, Beethoven, and Debussy piece) plus a wide variety of scales and arpeggios. I love classical music, the discipline and clarity of it, and it’s bringing me back to the essence of music.

Music takes time and learning instruments yourself gives a much deeper appreciation. It seems that Classical music has gone out of fashion and most people think of it as an elitist form. I really don’t believe that is true, and it makes me sad that it’s not Classical that people hear walking around in their everyday lives. The closest is movie music, which is sometimes classical or more modern orchestral music.

Music education is indeed a worthy endeavor and I hope I will be able to make a contribution!

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Rainbow Quilts

I have 3 quilts currently on exhibition at the River of Dreams Quilt show. They are based on the 7 colors of the rainbow. I made a stack of half square triangles per color which I used as the building blocks for all of these quilts:


The first and biggest quilt is my original idea. Every child in my son’s class designed a square. There are 21 kids, divisible by 7 so perfect for this project! They got to pick their 4 color squares and arrange them as they pleased, drawing it on a worksheet for me to sew. They picked a random color for their border out of the 21 available. I brought back the individual squares sewn with a white space below where they signed their names. I then sewed them together to make a rainbow.

The second quilt is based on the teacher’s square. He designed a square in a square with the white space in the middle. I wanted to show the secondary pattern, 4 color squares, so I put 9 together which made it about the size of a baby quilt. I put a white strip on each side so the class could sign it when they were signing their own squares, and gave it a blue border since he has a baby boy.

The third quilt is a rainbow in diagonal stripes. I made it for the library of the school.

This was a very gratifying project, especially seeing how much the kids enjoyed the quilts. We went to see them at the quilt show on a field trip last Friday.

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My Big Hoot

I’ve entered two pieces into the Birmingham Quilt Show inspired by the Big Hoot art exhibition that took place last summer in Birmingham. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so I’m just going to tell you the back story and show some samples that I’ve used for practice.

Last year was my second time in Birmingham for the quilt show, and my first time leaving the NEC to explore the actual city. I bought a train ticket at the station and asked for a map. The man at the train station gave me this map, which I discovered is a map of where all the owls were located around the city, not just the city itself:


I ended up spending the day exploring the owls as much as the city, it was a great way to see the city. It also gave me a reason to talk to people, mostly families out for the day exploring the owls too! It was then that I decided I would make an owl quilt the next year. I used this picture from the map as my template. It is one of my favorites from the exhibition, based on the Owl and the Pussycat (in a beautiful pea-green boat) and viewed from the back of the owl, it’s the pussycat!


Here’s a 3 owl practice that I put together. The fabric is different for each owl, as it is a bit of a memory quilt for me. All owls are made from fabric from my stash. I’ve used the quilting to add the owl-like features, and iron on gemstones for the eyes:


You can see the detail in an individual owl, this owl is about 2.5 inches high:


My Big Hoot quilt will be my first large quilt I’m entering into Birmingham. I didn’t feel that I was good enough before, and I do think that this is the best quilt I’ve ever made. I can’t wait to see it there!

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3 Dear Jane Quilts

Paula Rafferty started an extremely ambitious project to do a set of 3 Dear Jane quilts on January 1 this year, what a way to start 2016! Paula asked for volunteers to sew the individual blocks, then sent fabric and block designs to quilters all around the world. A lot of quilters put in unbelievable amounts of time. Even though the squares are small, some are very involved. I chose not to participate because I was working on my own set of quilts to take to California.

In the end I did get to participate. The triangles around the edges of the quilt were not part of the initial push for blocks, and some were still not assigned when I returned from California. I took two triangle blocks, and needed to make 6 total as there are 3 needed per design, one for each of the quilts. I ended up doing them as rough edge applique, so it was all cutting and ironing. I felt a bit like I was cheating but was able to make them very quickly. And they ended up exactly the right size!


I just saw the 3 quilts put together last Friday for the first time and they are amazing! The designs that Paula put together are a rainbow, an Irish heart, and a skull.




These quilts are truly impressive and I am honored to be a part of this project. Thank you Paula!

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