Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


Underwater Quilting

No, I didn’t quilt these placemats underwater, but I felt like I was drowning in my work at times. Here are two finished and six not finished placemats I worked on while at the quilting retreat.

I wanted to make up the scenes as I went along, so no two placemats are the same. (The one below is finished except for the binding.)

However, you may notice a reappearance of the dark invader, my Darth Vader fish, in several of the placemats. His job is to see that you don’t eat too much at one sitting.

Miss Prissy Fishy below lets the others know that she has special protection from Darky. Who knows what favours she supplies?

So Darky concentrates on other unearthly looking fish for his supper.

And yet, he must wonder why he has no friends. Look at them scramble to get away.

“Miss Prissy Fishy,” says Pretty Boy, “why are you ignoring me?  See how talented I am. I can touch my toes. And anyway, don’t you know that good things come in small packages?”

“I heard that, Pretty Boy,” bubbles Darky, “but in the case of eat or be eaten, just remember that size matters. Oh dear, now look what I’ve done. I’ve upset Little Blue Wonderfish.”

Disclaimer via Darky: Not responsible for any fish swimming upside down.


Sawing Logs

Two years ago at a quilting retreat, I had finished my planned small projects and had time left over to mess around a bit.  I sewed a few left over odds and ends together, making a square in the log cabin pattern.

The strips of fabric are like logs of all different lengths,  stacked into a “log cabin” of sorts. I made 14 of these squares with the shortest “log” being 1 inch and the longest, 9 inches. I thought it was a good way to use up scraps of fabric that would otherwise not be good for much.

Then I had a brainwave: I could put the squares together and make a quilt!

Okay. How many squares would I need? I had a quilt at home with a different design of squares. It was  10 squares across and 11 down, but was a tiny bit small for the bed.

I could do the same thing and add a border.

Great idea. So how many squares would I need to make? 10 times 11 = 110.

I had 14 done (and it had taken me some time).

Only 96 more to go. Eeeeeeee!!! What was I thinking?

But I had already made 14 and I had the “logs” cut out for many more. Too late to abandon the plan.

…. Last night, almost two years later,  I finished the monstrosity. Now, if I snore, I can say I’m sawing logs.


The Inside Scoop

What goes on at a quilting retreat? Here’s a peek at the inside of the lodge at Camp Homewood on Quadra Island, off Vancouver Island.

The lodge has an old part and a  new part. This is the old part, with a huge fireplace (that couldn’t be used this year until the chimney gets an upgrade and inspection). About 40 quilters have set up their sewing machines. They have brought tons of supplies and fabrics from home to finish up old projects or start new ones.


They hang their completed projects from the upstairs railing to bring inspiration to their fellow quilters.

Some of the living quarters (bedrooms and bathrooms) are on on the upstairs and downstairs of this big meeting room.

On the distant left (below, at the bottom of the stairs) you can see a doorway that goes through to the new part of the lodge.030

Standing in that doorway, I took one more photo of the old room so you can see the setup there, and then I turned  …


and took this photo of the new part where more quilters had their machines set up. In the foreground of the photo below, you can see the empty round tables to the left. This is the dining area. The long table in the center is where the buffet-style meals are set up. The food is always very good and no one goes away hungry.034

Some of the projects are hung on the railing on the new side as well. In some cases, the quilter might decide to only do the piecing of the top layer and do the quilting at home after adding the batting and backing under the top of the quilt.

026 The quilts below are not finished, but the tops are pieced together, ready to be quilted at home.031

More quilts and a couple of bags (not mine).032 And yet more quilts and another style of bag (not mine) below the smaller green quilt. Beautiful workmanship.025

Four days of intensive sewing and sharing of techniques, ideas (and a few jokes), made this a successful retreat.

Next time I’ll share the close up work of one quilter whom I admire very much.


Bags, Bags, Bags

I promised I would share what we made at the quilting retreat. I’m very much a beginning quilter, so I hesitate to show what I was working on. But the saying goes, “Save the best for last,” so I thought I’d start with my own project(s) and work up to what some of the experts sewed in another post.

I still have plenty of scraps to work with so I brought the cut out squares and strips with me to the retreat. I only broke two needles this time, sewing through the heavy layers in the corner seams. Less than one needle per bag. Getting better!

Future bags may be a variation of these, maybe with squares on the bottom too. Not sure yet.

What are they good for? In my case, I use one of these bags as a purse because they hold a lot (of my important junk). Most other people might use them to carry books to their book club meeting, carry slippers to a friend’s house when they go to dinner and want to change shoes, carry a camera and a notebook for a hike or photo outing, carry a sandwich and a bottle of water — the list is endless. It just depends on your lifestyle and special needs and hobbies.


Some people at the retreat made much fancier bags than these and it got me thinking about finding new designs for my next bags.

Meanwhile, I made the top layers of two coffee table “runners.” I’ll do a post about those when I get the batting and backing on them and finish quilting the layers together.

In the next post I hope to show you some of the projects the expert quilters worked on. Their sewing skills are amazing.


Quilting at Camp Homewood


Set on beautiful Quadra Island on Canada’s west coast, Camp Homewood was the venue for a quilting retreat last weekend.


It’s a very old building, but it easily accommodated the 32+ quilters and guests of the Comox Valley Schoolhouse Quilters’ Guild who had signed up for a weekend of quilting fun.

The location was absolutely gorgeous. Here is the view from the sundeck of the building.


Hard to concentrate on sewing at first, but the view wasn’t going to run away, so we got to work. It was my first time at a quilting retreat and I went along as a guest of a friend who is a seasoned quilter.

Below, you can see how we set up our sewing machines and our workspace on the “no view” side of the room.


Towards the view side, several other quilters have set up their workspace. All have brought their own sewing machines – mostly Bernina, Janome, and Pfaff –  and they have brought their pre-cut fabric. Some brought irons and ironing boards which they shared with the group. Many arrived with extra folding tables and some even brought their own comfortable adjustable chairs, in anticipation of many hours of sitting hunched over a sewing machine.

You can see the extra round tables at the far end of the hall. This is where the group was served meals from Thursday to Sunday afternoon. The excellent food was prepared on the premises, mostly from scratch. Best of all, the guests had a whole weekend without having to wash dishes.


A second room in the older part of the building accommodated many more quilters. See the setups in the photo below.


Here is one lady’s workspace with fabric pieces cut out and labeled, each ready for placement in the correct spot. Some quilters are working from a pattern while others are making it up as they go along. This workspace holds more than 22 items, but each of them is necessary for the job. I was impressed by the organization of materials.


The first afternoon and evening, I frequently thought about home. I wondered if this or that little job was being done, now that I wasn’t there to take care of it:

Were the dogs being let in or out of the house when they needed it?

Were they being fed?

Did the Captain remember how to use the dishwasher?

Did he remember to turn off the stove?

Did he remember to lock the doors before going to bed?

Did he blah, blah, blah…?  Nag, nag, nag….

Finally, I called home. Everything was fine, and I relaxed and shut these things out of my mind for the rest of the weekend. I concentrated on my sewing and listened with half an ear to the other women telling stories. After supper, many of the women had gone to their rooms and come back up to the sewing room in their pyjamas or muu-muus. Might as well be comfortable as hours of sewing still lay ahead.

At times, the whole room sounded like a hive of babbling voices, punctuated with spontaneous bursts of laughter. I chuckled to myself at some of the funny laughs that some of the women had, from high-pitched “hee-hee-hee”s to raucous “haw-haw-haw”s straight from the belly, and once in a while a red-faced silent laugh interrupted by a horsey snort started everyone laughing again. You might say the storytellers left us in stitches.

Many of the women surprised me by staying up until the wee hours of the morning, but the next day at breakfast I was always surprised by how much they had accomplished (in between behaving like teen girls at a pyjama party). These were not just a bunch of old ladies. They were a group of very talented women who were sharing techniques they had learned in their many years of experience.  As the projects were completed, the finished pieces were hung on the railing of the upper floor. Each person displayed their work and went on to the next project they had brought with them.

Here are some of the projects of the second room.


Here are some from the first room. My friend’s snowflake quilt is third from the right, and the tote bag I made is the last one on the left.


It was a wonderful weekend, with breaks for walks in this pristine nature setting. In the next posts I’ll tell about some of those walks.