Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Family Heirloom

When I was 18 years old, I fell in love with Peter.  His mother Carrie was truly a wonderful woman; and after Peter was out of the picture I stayed in communication with his mother for many years. She gave me a start from her large Christmas Cactus plant. It grew into a huge plant that always sat in my parent's living room. 35 years ago, my husband and I moved into our house in Racine; my mother brought  me a slip from that original plant sitting in the living room. It likes our house, and it has become a monster of a plant. The new pot I put it in last summer is so heavy we can't move it without wheels!
My special Christmas Cactus in full bloom 2010

Just look at how gorgeous the plant is today. I learned that using 10-10-10 fertilizer is what it needs, along with a much larger pot and soil especially for cactus. The bag of fertilizer I purchased will last me the rest of my life!

What a show this plant is putting on for me and my family! I'm guessing it will be blooming through Valentine"s Day. This plant, like my creativity, needs to be fed and nurtured from time to time. I see a Christmas Cactus quilt in my future.

Happy New Year to all of you.


Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday Traditions

My wish for all my readers is that you have a wonderful holiday, whether you have traditional celebrations or not!

Back in 1985 my parents took a European tour for musicians; and East Germany was on their itinerary. Having been fascinated by the E. German Christmas Pyramids or Carousels, I asked them if they would purchase one for me. I gave them some money, and they finally agreed to purchase it, even though they really didn't want to haul a big box around as they toured churches and cathedrals across the continent. But they did carry it with them for most of the tour. They had no idea what they were starting for us.

My 2 sons have grown up watching the thing spin as the heat from the candles turns the blades on the top.

I'm not a traditionalist but nothing tickles my fancy more than watching the angels and shepherds go around and around as I eat my holiday cookies for dessert. For me this brings the joy of the season.

And tonight after we had our favorite meal of tacos for Christmas eve I brought out the cookies and lit the carousel.  It was wonderful. The boys were home, conversation was lively, and I was thrilled by the candles and carousel. We have created our own tradition! Not only has this carousel traveled thousands of miles across the ocean, it still puts on the miles, on our dining room table.

May you find joy and love in your holiday.


Monday, December 20, 2010

A Piece of Fine Literature from Racine WI

I'm tired of talking about quilts and design problems.  This post is a change of pace.

From time to time, something tickles my fancy. Being the mother of 2 boys my life involved baseball cards, airplanes, automobiles, hockey and soccer games.  The only thing I had that was feminine was our cat, and the bathroom in my studio was painted pink. The literature I read to my kids involved things like Planes, Trains and Automobiles. There was no Cinderella or Snow White read in this house.

The other day, this little poem was in the newspaper and it made me chuckle.  This is for your holiday enjoyment!  Read on............

Ode to a Car Part
by Michael Burke, Journal Times Business Reporter
December 19, 2010
Published by permission of the author

When the snow is so hard it squeaks under my heel
And the cold is so sharp that my feet I can't feel.
When my car's caked with road salt and looks like a beater,
I climb in and switch on my car-seat heater.

At this time of year it's a butt-saving feature
A great rear-end melter for all living creatures
In no time at all, heat flows up from the chair
Thawing and roasting this boy's derriere.

When temperatures dive, and the air feels like ice
To sit on a bun-warmer is ever so nice
When cars stick in snowdrifts, and people must push
There's nothing like feeling that warmth in the tush.

The computer and asphalt are both great inventions
Likewise the glue stick and ladder extensions
The wheel was a wonder, but to be a repeater,
Can anything top the toasty car-seat heater?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Fun with Ginkgoes

It's time to put aside my problems with the Tragedy on Esplanade quilt. It will be finished in 2011. I'd like to tell you about my most recently completed quilt Ginkgoes Galore. It is a quilt with joyous color, ginkgo leaves and a purple vase. Actually its working title was Ginkgo Tea Party.
This is the background for Ginkgoes Galore. It went through many evolutions, this is the final one!

I already had fabricated; cut and fused several large blue to purple ginkgo leaves.  I tried scattering them around the background much like another quilt, Yellow Ginkgoes on Blue and Green. My leaves were huge like the Yellow Ginkgo piece, but that didn't seem to be very successful this time.

Then came that shopping trip to TJ Maxx, where I found a wonderful vase for $4.99. 
Here it is, the wonderful $4.99 purple vase. I love the color, the unsymmetrical shape, somewhat reminiscent of a urinal!
This is just what my quilt needed. Instead of ginkgo leaves floating around, I'd place them in this purple vase.  Now what will is sit on?

A tablecloth would work. I considered a laundry basket full of fabrics before deciding on which would work the best. Quilters that do little actual designing don't realize that there are many options to consider before making the final decision.  I auditioned red fabrics, black and white, white, solid black and purple.  When I do this I wind up with a huge pile of rejected fabrics on the floor of my studio. This process could take as long as a day.  But I decided rather quickly on a black and white print, set it on the diagonal and put the vase on it. There would be plenty of room for a teapot or cups, you'll remember the tea party theme.
Here is the vase sitting on the paper pattern for the tablecloth. The leaves have been fused and assembled on bakers parchment.

Two cups were added and placed on the tablecloth. The piece was quilted and edges finished. Currently it is hanging in my living room. It makes me feel good when I walk past it. I can enjoy a cup of tea while looking at it.
Here is the completed quilt Ginkgoes Galore

You may read more about it on my website and will find a larger image and 3 detail shots of the stitching and leaves.  Enjoy.

Ann Fahl

Monday, December 13, 2010

Troubling Quilt part 4

The quilt has been quilted, blocked, trimmed and ready for binding.  I'm just not sure. So.....the quilt is resting; I'm not looking at it; it's covered up; and I'm working on Christmas stuff.  More later.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

More Troubling Quilt--part 3

I actually started to quilt this piece last week. Yet something was still troubling me about my composition.  I decided that there was nothing "exciting" about this dark little scene.  So I decided to add one more large pink coneflower to add a little visual interest to the setting. Using a paper pattern, I determined the size it should be when curved out of the frame appearing closer to the viewer.
I don't like designing after fact--after the piece has been basted together with the batting and backing, but the addition of the new flower definitely adds something to the piece. 

Now, the shoreline placed in the middle of the quilt has been bothering me too. So I cut random really dark prints to suggest the houses and trees.  Some of the scraps were purple, brown, green and dark gray, I liked this alot.  The gray print I originally chose worked OK, but not well, on its own.  I just had to help it a little.
Above is a detail of some of the quilting over the gray print and add-ons.  Using a flash on my camera really makes it appear much lighter than it is in "real life" but you can get the idea.

At last the quilt is coming together, I'm ready to quilt the areas in the foreground, then I know I will feel more confident in my finished product.
Here is what it looks like at this point.  It is becoming more exciting as the quilting is progressing well.  I have further removed lots more tulle from the central reflection (which doesn't show in the above pic), so I feel soooooo much better about everything. You'll have to wait for more pics.


Sunday, December 5, 2010

A Troubling Quilt--part 2

Somewhere along the way, I must have stopped taking pictures. Because you can see the quilt has many more elements. The hammock eventually became red.  I put in a stump on the left, in place of the grass.  I was troubled by an empty middle, so I added a dark gray print that becomes the opposite shoreline.  I slashed into the fabric to create some texture, and I don't particularly like that!

Meanwhile, the entire quilt is troubling me. I kept asking myself why am I making this quilt?  During this time, I kept moving things around until I achieved some kind of interesting composition, up until now, the quilt  wasn't working on an artistic level.

So you can see now, there are ginkgo leaves on the tree. This softens the moonlight and the severe righthand edge to some extent.

As I thought about the scene of the accident, which I was able to walk past about 3 weeks following the terrible event, there were flowers still laying on the edge of the lake. Then I thought, of course, I need to put my flowers at the scene.  I set to work cutting out little black eyed susans because they bloom in profusion in the area.  Then I cut the long stemmed pink cone flowers and laid them on the ground below the remaining tree and hammock. Finally I felt that the quilt might be coming together.  So I began embroidering and appliqueing the elements.

Thursday in a bold move, I basted the thing together and started quilting.  Before I could do anything else, I needed to cut away the reflection in the lake, the white blob of tulle was so visually distracting to me. So I began quilting the center section and spent the evening trimming away the white tulle. is getting there. Somehow I feel I must modify the shape of the reflection, it seems too small.

I will spend the afternoon working on what I have, and see what I can do to make the piece visually more interesting.   There will be more.  Please add your comments, I find them helpful.


Friday, December 3, 2010

A Troubling Quilt

There was an accident that occurred in Winona Lake IN, this past September. A 19 year old girl was killed.  She and her boyfriend were sitting in a hammock overlooking sunset point, when one of the trees holding the hammock fell over. Here is a link to one of the many news stories about it. The tree killed the young woman and severely injured the young man.

For the families, this must be an unspeakably horrible time for them. For me it is a tragedy for several reasons. This happened just one block away from the family cottage which is my most favorite place in the world. It is where I spent every summer, played with cousins and had idyllic summers. And of course Winona was where I got my first kiss. Since I married and had 2 children, I have taken them to visit every summer too. I have had a full life, Winona Lake was such an important part of it.  This young woman will never have the experiences I have had at Winona, nor will she have a full life. Since September I've wrestled with needing to do something about this awful accident. So in October I began making a quilt.

This quilt should include the name of the street, "Esplanade"; include a hammock, show the lake and moonlight, and what about the tree that fell over? There should be stars in the sky.  I have worked and worked, and struggled with this piece.  I am thinking that perhaps it shouldn't be finished.
Above is the hand dyed fabric I am using for the background--no piecing. There is the street sign showing the name of the street is Esplanade.  Many times I make patterns for elements out of newsprint and pin them in place to see how the shape and size work.

I'm not pleased with how the street sign looks, so I made it bigger, smaller, taller etc. and nothing seemed to please me.  So I removed it and started on something that I knew would work:  a tree that also created the right hand border.
The strip of light blue fabric on upper left is hand painted was made for stars that lighted the sky.
The addition of the tree was easy.  The moon behind it, (the accident was at midnight) is created with layers of white tulle.  There is the beginnings of a hammock, that will be tied to the tree. The actual hammock was one of those knotted rope things, I didn't think that was going to work.  The moon's reflection in the water is tulle, that will be cut away after the quilting. Something else is needed so I made some tall grass, which is actually growing at the point. 

I'm not happy with the hammock. How should it be pictured?  In a wad on the ground, like a real hammock, or something else?
I spent hours on creating a hammock. I kept thinking that one end should be attached to a tree, the other end in a puddle or in disarray. I made them in several colors, one was too small, I tried creating a black hammock and embroidering the knotted ropes on top, but nothing is working.   So I put it away.

More to come............................................................

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Time to Organize for 2011

Now that Thanksgiving is over, and most of the leftovers have been eaten, it is time to spend a little time deciding which quilt shows I will enter next year. Having my work in competitions across the country is important for me; it's a big challenge, good publicity, and a possible source of additional income.

I make a list of quilts that I've made the last 2 or 3 years that are competition worthy, and list the shows and their entry deadlines and exhibit dates.  This takes a couple of hours, but I've worked out a tentative schedule for my quilts for the first half of next year. I do this every year to help me keep track of all the shows and what quilts will be where!  I've printed off all the entry info and forms, so I have everything I need as the deadline nears.

If you enter quilt competitions, it is the right time to organize. Soon the holiday season will be upon us, and there won't be as much time to take care of administrative type tasks.  Then you'll be ready for those early January deadlines.

How do you keep track?


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Have You Heard About Titanium Needles?

Less than a year ago, the good people at Superior Threads designed a new topstitch needle.  I am always leery of new products.  But I was curious enough about them to order just 1 pack of size 14's with my thread order.  Well that's all it took, they are great.
You know that rule where the sewing machine needle should be replaced every 8 hours?  Gone.  These needles last 5-6 times longer than our standard needles do!

If you like to use beautiful shiny decorative threads, they can be irritatng at times. If you are frustrated by shredding or breaking threads, topstitch needles are what you need. They have a large eye, and a groove in the shaft of the needle above the eye, that actually protects these more delicate threads as the stitches are being created below the throat plate.
 If you use fusible products in your work, you will also find that the titanium plating on the needle seems to repel the glue and sticky substances that we use. Our standard metal needles seem to get coated and the eye of the needle gets clogged and eventually break the threads. These new needles are a win-win product.

They come in 4 sizes, 70/10, 80/12, 90/14 and 100/16 and they are a beautiful "gold" color so you don't get them mixed up with other needles. There is a size for every weight of thread.

When I teach and lecture around the country I am stunned at how many packages of these needles that I sell. So I have decided to add them to my notions "store" on my website.  You may read more on my website.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Darning Foot UPDATE part 4

Finally, I'm working in my studio, doing some machine embroidery.  I have the new Janome open toe darning foot installed on my machine. See darning foot part 3.  Because it doesn't hop and it just glides, it is so much easier to free-motion embroider. I can't believe it.

Those of you that have Janome's check to see if this new 3 part darning foot is available for your model.  Also owners of some Elna, Brother and Kenmore machines may be able to use it.  It is available for high and low shank machines.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mr. Blackwell Exhibit part 3

This grouping of red dresses took my breath away.
On the far left is another double knit day dress.  The V neckline is encrusted with bugle beads, seed beads and rhinestones.  This detail is repeated on the cuffs of the long sleeves. There are double welt pockets at the hip and a hand stitched zipper at the center back.

Next is the red strapless dres of silk charmeuse. The bodice is lined with the same fabric as are the peplum below the waist and the flounce at the hem.

Further to the right is a very simple yet sophisticated long polyester knit dress with a draped one shoulder design. The elegant detail is the gathered piece stitched under the left arm, across the chest, over the shoulder and falling down to the floor on the back. The dress hangs so simply into a full flowing hemline. The brochure says there are bugle beads accenting the long streamer and the neckline.

Last is another of my favorite garments in the exhibit. This is a 1980 red crepe de Chine long dress featuring printed flowers scattered  across the garment. The halter style top has an added ruffle/flower at the neckline. There is a peplum at the waist and ruffle at the hem.  The matching stole is also accented by a wide ruffle. This is such a beautiful soft and drapey feminine ensemble.

Mr. Blackwell designed garments for real women. He worked with Lane Bryant in 1965 to create beautiful garments for the plus size woman. Over the years he designed for many wealthy and famous women, had a television show and weekly column.

Many thanks for this wonderful exhibit at the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins CO.  It is open to the public at no charge.  Donations are gratefully accepted. Thank you to the curator Linda Carlson and guest curator Ali Rahimi for making part of the museum collection available to us.

Everyone that likes to sew should see this exhibit of exceptional design and workmanship.

Mr. Blackwell Exhibit part 2

This exhibit, open now, will be on display until April 1, 2011. So you have time to visit when you are in the area. Blackwell (1922-2008) was a designer in California, many movie stars and notables wore his clothing. Most of us remember his "worst dressed list" for both men and women.

Because I love beading I took several detail shots of the white dress dated 1969, second from the left.
No need to wear a necklace. Check out this "day dress" with flat braid, rhinestone studs, pearls and amber faceted glass.
Look at this welt pocket. Did you ever make one like this? It's gorgeous.

When viewing the exhibit, everything is behind glass, but you can get really close to the garments.  There is so much hand work.  Being a quilter, I think too many of us speed up the process by taking shortcuts on the machine. What a treat to see this show.

The turquoise brocade dress to the right of the beaded day dress is described in the show brochure as: "a two piece evening ensemble, long-sleeved dress with matching full-length, sleeveless coat of brocaded fabric in turquoise, white, and gold paisley motifs.  Sleeveless coat is additionally embellished with gold and clear sequins and gold dangles."

Never in my life have I worn a sleeveless coat, I'd prefer to think of it as a long vest.

Mr. Blackwell Exhibit in Colorado part 1

Recently I've returned from a teaching trip to Ft. Collins CO.  Maureen took me for a little side trip to the Colorado State University Campus. We visited the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising to see the exhibit of Blackwell garments:  Mr. Blackwell, A Retrospective.

This is a totally amazing exhibit, the last time I was this excited about a special exhibition was when I saw the King Tut show in Chicago.  In another lifetime, I was very interested in retailing and fashion. I've long given that up, as I only wear jeans and T-Shirts now!  But the dresses designed by Mr. Richard Blackwell are couture up close.

 This is a type of sewing, both hand and machine that I've not seen in many years.

This beautiful silver gown would make a princess feel special. The bodice of the crepe-back satin gown is beaded with bugle beads and rhinestones. There are 2 rows of bugle beads at the lower edge of the hem. The full skirt drapes softly over a purple net petticoat. This is such a magical feminine dress. Can you tell this was my favorite?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Darning Feet--part 3

One of my readers told me about a new darning foot  from Janome that gave better visibility.  Yesterday, I went to my dealer and picked one up.  It comes in a combo package that gives the sewer a choice of three feet for the darning foot, and gives you the wonderful pressure adjustability. (The wheel above spring on upper right)

After a short test, I am impressed with how the little open toe feature gives much better visibility than the closed toe that I showed you in Darning Feet--part 2. When adjusted properly, it just glides along, instead of hopping like other feet. This is sooooo much easier on the eyes.
Here are the other 2 feet that come with the package: The Clear View Foot and the Closed Toe foot. The Clear View gives you a wide opening, so the sewer can accomplish zigzag free-motion. And the closed toe model I am not fond of.  All three interchangeable feet are attached to the machine via a small slotted screw on the back side of attachment bar .  This is a well thought out product.

If you don't have a Janome machine, that's OK.  When you are interested in doing lots of free-motion work trying out all the darning feet available for your machine or one that you hope to purchase, is very important.

Ann Fahl

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Quilter Magazine

Every once-in-a-while something comes along that is a wonderful surprise.  A December issue of The Quilter Magazine recently arrived.
I was thrilled to see my name written on the cover--Wow I'm a star.  Towards the back of the issue Dawn Goldsmith had written a 4 page article about my work.  She says that my quilts sing. I just think this is the ultimate complement. The pictures in the article are good sized and there are also detail images to show the quilting.

When you go to your favorite shop, look for this issue. Besides me, there are lots of quilt patterns and ideas.  Thank you so much Dawn for writing a wonderful article. I am honored.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Do you hear all the bells ringing? It is National Oatmeal Day!

Today is October 29, National Oatmeal Day.  What a day! Many years back I discovered that eating a big bowl of Old Fashioned Oatmeal with some goodies added, was a great way to begin the day. It helps to give me a healthy energy level throughout the day.
Power Breakfast for Quilters © by Ann Fahl
Go to my website and get my recipe and read a little more about this quilt. Old fashioned oatmeal when cooked with milk tastes soooooooooooo much better than the instant stuff cooked with water.  Believe me, it really does.  If you are eating too many simple carbs for breakfast, this will make a difference for you. Let me know how you like it.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Darning Feet--In Depth part 1

Before I begin this post, let's define what a darning foot is. A darning foot is an attachment for the sewing machine that is usually mounted on a spring or a hinge. It is meant to be used when the feed dogs are lowered, and allows the sewer to move the fabric under it, freely in any direction.  It is also called a quilting foot, hopping foot, or a free-motion foot, and may be called something else depending on your brand of sewing machine. I use this type of foot exclusively for all my embroidery on quilt tops and all my free-motion quilting. It doesn't restrict the sewer to any specific direction, it is very freeing when you learn to sew in this manner.

It is always amazing that I still make discoveries, even after I've been quilting for soooooo many years.  In my book Dancing with Thread I mention that I prefer to use a closed toe darning foot when quilting on the border or outside edge of a quilt. This is because it is less likely to catch in the edge of the border.

This particular day, I had finished the edge of the quilt, and was moving on to a different project. Too lazy to put the open toed foot back on, I just began to machine quilt with the enclosed foot.  To my surprise, it gave me more control and a better free-motion stitch quality than the open foot, which came with my machine.
Plastic closed toe darning foot for Janome machine
 Little discoveries like this continue to help make my work better. How could this be? The open toe style gives the quilter more visibility for quilting or embroidering around appliques or in the seams. It is easier to see, so I have always used this one for general quilting.

Because the closed toe above, does limit the visibility slightly, I think the improved stitch quality outweighs the visual adjustment I've had to make. Why does it improve the stitch? I think because it lightly holds the fabric down near where the needle pierces the fabric. There seems to be less pulling and stress on the top of the quilt; hence a better stitch. The opening of foot measures about 3/8 ths of an inch.
Open toed darning foot, original equipment for Janome machines
You can see in the above picture how much easier it is to see where the needle will pierce the cloth for the next stitch. So of course, I used to always use this foot!

Janome offers another darning foot.  Read about it in the next post, darning feet part 2

Ann Fahl

Darning Feet--part 2

A year or two ago, Janome released a new foot and bobbin case for free-motion work.  As soon as I heard about this new product I wanted to get the set.  The bobbin case works beautifully. It appears to be just the same as the factory installed case, but it performs better. 

New Janome darning foot for free-motion work
The new closed metal darning foot impressed me at first, because the pressure is adjustable by turning a little dial. You can see above the spring a little wheel that will adjust the pressure on the throat plate and quilt top. The metal enclosed foot is too small to see where I am stitching. The opening actually measures about 3/16 ths of an inch.  After using this foot exclusively for a month or two, I kept having eye strain. After I figured out what was happening to me, I put this foot away and have never used it since. Because I do so much quilting around flower petals and little details, the visibility this foot offers is too limited for me to use in my work.

Many of you have other brands of sewing machines. Check what type of feet are available for your brand of machine. After reading what I've written about what is available from my brand of machine, you will be able to determine what kind of foot will work better for you.

Happy free-motion quilting.

Ann Fahl

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Celebrating Gordon

All my life I've been a cat person. Over the years, there have been many felines in my life, but very few dogs. Across the road at my family's Indiana cottage, a young man named Nick moved in. Shortly thereafter, we got to know both Nick and his puppy, Gordon. Gordon was a beautiful Golden Retriever that spent his days either chasing tennis balls, or holding them in his mouth.

Over the years he became our favorite visitor at the cottage. He knew where my aunt kept the extra tennis balls in the closet, where the doggy treats were in the kitchen, and always waited for someone to toss him a ball. Always a gentleman, Gordon never lifted his leg, he just squatted. This is something women appreciate.  My uncle spends hours working in the yard fixing bikes and boats. You can be sure, Gordon would be close by, supervising the repair activities.

He loved running down the length of the pier and plunging off the end into the water with a huge splash. He loved riding in Nick's pickup truck and going for boat rides. He seemed happiest outside. In his later years, he had trouble getting out of the water, so the lakefront neighbors had stairs or piled up cement blocks to make it easier for him to climb out.  He loved all of us, and we loved him.

On September 22, Gordon died at the age of 9. We are all stunned at his death. I can't imagine how Nick must feel. The only thing I could think to do, was to create a photo collage, print it on fabric and quilt it for Nick. Here is how the small piece looks.
Celebrating Gordon  a quilt by ©Ann Fahl 10.5 x 8 inches
I quilted everything with monofilament thread. I folded a strip of dark green and basted it on the outside edge, then bound the quilt with a tone-on-tone beige print that was about the same color as the siding on his house.

Detail of Celebrating Gordon
Losing a pet is such a devastating experience, I hope this little quilt will stitch up some comforting memories for Nick and all of Gordon's friends.

Because Nick is probably not a quilt enthusiast, I enclosed a easel from Hobby Lobby and a small piece of foam core board to put behind the quilt. This way Gordon's quilt can be displayed on a counter, mantel or table top. 


Sunday, October 10, 2010


One of the earliest paintings attributed to Artemesia Gentileschi

Reading an occasional book gives me a break from my creative activities. My friend Sally gave me her copy of a book titled Artemisia, by Alexandra Lapierre.  Artemisia Gentileschi was a female painter living and working in Italy 1593-1653. The list of artists painting at the same time, she worked and competed with is amazing.

The story of her life got my attention immediately. The life of an artist was so difficult back then, having to make their own paints and supplies, finding people to commission and purchase your work, difficulties of working with patrons and having the Catholic Church limit the subjects that are appropriate for your work. As a young woman, she wasn't even allowed to be seen by young men. She was kept behind closed doors and windows. Social life and dating was nonexistant.

Her father was a famous painter and taught his daughter everything about his art. As she matured, she became a more accomplished artist than her father, Orazio. Many of their works in Italy and England are their collaborations, and still exist today.

The book was translated from the French language. it doesn't take long for you to accept all the foreign phrases, and you become fascinated by her life. It was well documented because of a rape trial and her membership in arts organizations of the time. She was a woman well ahead of her time.

Since finishing the book, I've looked up images of her known paintings. In my opinion, her subjects are awful, some violent, but she was still an amazing painter. Her colors are rich, fabrics beautifully rendered, her human figures are skillfully detailed.  Imagine what she might have painted if she was alive today? What subjects would she have chosen without the restrictions of her time period. Reading this story makes me appreciate my life as a woman and an artist working in the USA. The freedoms we enjoy today make our creative lives so much easier. Imagine wanting to make a quilt. First you have to spin the wool or cotton, grow and make the dyes for the fabric, dye and print the fabric, before even beginning to cut anything out.  And no electricity!

Here is a link to a website dedicated to her life and work. If you read this book, stick with it for the first few chapters, it will catch your interest soon. I was sorry when I was finished with the book.


Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Sneak Peek

Since February I've been trying to finish a quilt and create a new quilt pattern. I designed the quilt while teaching my workshop at Asilomar Conference Grounds in CA. The background is pieced squares, what a surprise. The flowers can be embroidered or appliqued, your choice!  The pattern will be ready to go to press, as soon as the quilt is finished and photographed.

Yesterday I finished quilting the piece, blocked it and trimmed the edges in preparation for the binding. My cat Oreo found the quilt resting on my cutting table and decided she really liked it. She rolled on it, sat on it, and took a bath on it.  She really wanted to spend the rest of the afternoon on it!
Oreo on the new quilt
What is it about cats with new or clean quilts?

So now you have a little peek at my newest quilt and future pattern, Purple Iris. If Oreo ever gets off the quilt, I'll bind it, then photograph the finished piece. Eventually it will go to the printers. I'll let you know when it's done. This design will be perfect for spring.

In the meantime, enjoy the last few days of September.


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Something to Think About

My August blog about a recent quilt show and judging generated more responses than any that I've published before. It seems I have hit a nerve in our community of quilt makers.
Detail from Dancing Coneflowers by Ann Fahl
Right now while I am drinking hot chocolate in my new mug, and I received an email from Sherry Reynolds. She has spent a great deal of time thinking about this issue too, and the direction of quilting today. She included a short statement that sums up what I think are the problems with both the entries and the judging at quilt shows. With her premission, this is what she said, "The beauty of a quilt is not how much thread you can cram on a quilt.  To me, you should be able to take away the quilting and still have a work of art.”

Sherry is so right. Just because we can do massive amounts of quilting on the sewing machine, we have all gone overboard with the quantity, myself included.  We need to step back, consider the design, and decide what would be the most appropriate for the piece. Our quilt judges have a very difficult task, they need to weigh the design of the piece, the workmanship, and the quality of the quilting to come up with their decision. It seems they too, have been influenced too much by the quantity of the quilting rather than the quality of the design and the stitching together.We must remember to balance the quilt top design with the stitching of the layers.

I just published a book about free-motion machine quilting so you know I love quilting. It can be a wonderfully rewarding activity, and I love to see the texture and patterns develop on the surface of my work.  But let's slow down a bit, take a look, and perhaps rethink what we've done in the past, and lighten up a bit on what we are quilting now.

Think about it. Pass this message on to your quilting friends and guilds.

Ann Fahl

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good Design is More Fun!

Last night we met my son for dinner at TGI Friday's. In the dining area the table tops had bold red and white diagonal stripes on the top. I so enjoyed the graphics, I am so easy to please. Lots of color really brightens my day.

After dinner I asked for a cup of tea, and the waiter brought my tea in a beautifully designed mug the likes of which I had never seen before. It is a contemporary vase shape with a delightful red and white striped handle. It struck my fancy immediately.  I asked if I could buy a mug, which I eventually did, and came home with two of them.  I can hardly wait to have my morning cup of tea in one of these.

They will make everything taste better.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Disaster and Discovery

Sewn Together, © 2010 Ann Fahl
This past weekend, I taught a great bunch of quilters in South Dakota. This was only my second time to teach in this state, so I was looking forward to my trip.

Following a successful full-day workshop on free-motion embroidery, I was to give a lecture about my work following the banquet. Everything had gone well that day, but I was quite tired after a long day of travel the previous day. I was ever so grateful for a wonderful chocolate frosted brownie for dessert, I needed the energy! Yum!

I was able to hook up my laptop to the convention center's digital projector. It was a challenge to make sure  everything was working and focused.  The lights in the banquet hall were turned down, and I began my Power Point presentation. I turned around and looked at my first illustration: a red and green quilt block; and the color was green and yellow. What was wrong here? 

I kept going, and the color didn't get better. I asked if anyone in the audience knew anything about correcting color on the projector. Someone left to get assistance from the hotel staff. No one came.  I gave my entire lecture, looking at my quilts without all the powerful color:  the red, yellow and orange. I think I repeated my request for assistance, but no one had any suggestions for me; and I was tired, so my problem solving skills were non-existent at the moment.  When I finished, the lights came up, and I showed the audience 4 of my larger and newer quilts.  There were oohs and aahs, they looked so different than my digital slides. Although the evening finished on a positive note, the whole experience was rather devastating.

I'm home now. As I was telling my husband about the disaster, I realized that I had learned something about my work.  My work is all about color. Looking at my work through that skewed lens, made me realize how important all those saturated colors are, they give my work strength.  I love to sew, embroider and quilt, but this isn't enough, quilts truly come alive with the color.
Sewn Together © 2010 Ann Fahl

This may seem obvious, but it is so good to be able to "see" your work from a different point of view.


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A Little Bit of Gardening

Ann's deck with butterfly bush, petunias, geranium, rosemary and sweet autumn (Clematis paniculata.)
The other day, I was pulling weeds in the garden in my backyard. I'd been weeding for probably an hour or more when something whizzed past my head, and landed on the toe of one of my red Crocks! It was a tiny bird, a blue/gray warbler. I said "hello" and it hopped off my shoe and fluttered off into the coneflowers.  This happened so fast, I can hardly believe it happened!

This was one of life's little miracles.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

A Little of This and That

It seems like autumn is here in Wisconsin. Leaves are falling, the Sedum and Mums in my garden are either in full bloom or close to it. I'm loving the cool weather.

You may be interested to see an online interview with me by Barb Harms. She interviews quilt artists, asking them questions about where they've come from and where they are going.  There are pictures of some of my quilts included as you scroll down the page.

Summer Sanctuary by Ann Fahl

Last night, I was thrilled to learn that my Summer Sanctuary quilt won a first prize at Quilt Expo in Madison. This is a very well run show sponsored by Nancy Zieman, Sewing with Nancy. I am honored. It is a special quilt for both Oreo and me. You can read more about this quilt on my website.  It has an interesting story to go along with it. The book on the chair happens to be the Harry Potter book 6. I loved the entire series of books and have read some of them twice.

No matter how long I have quilted it is always a thrill to have one of my quilts awarded a prize at a big show. I love this quilt and it means a lot to me, it is good to have the judges feedback, that the quilt is indeed a good one. So much of my heart and soul goes into my work, this is a great reward for me.