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Inspiration in the Ordinary Lecture on Saturday, January 27 in Waterville, ME

Friday, January 26th, 2018

Hi all…quickly popping in to say HI!  I’m debuting my new lecture, Inspiration in the Ordinary, tomorrow at the Pine Tree Quilt Guild quarterly meeting in Waterville, ME.  To get directions, click here for more information.  Note, however, that the meeting has been moved down the hill to the auditorium.  Just look for where there are more cars parked!

From Sarah’s new lecture, Inspiration in the Ordinary. Many of you have seen my “dog walkies” photos…this is what inspires me, and a I’d like to inspire YOU.

Tomorrow I’ll have a follow up post with a PDF and links to the “visiting artists” websites, pattern links, information about apps, and the books mentioned in the lecture.   Hope to see many of you there!

And the last slide in the lecture


Cardinal in the Pine

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

Cardinal in the Pine by Sarah Ann Smith

Cardinal in the Pine is my contribution to this year’s Coastal Quilters Chapter Challenge (see this post for all the quilts).  Once again, I–the art quilter–went traditional!  Since the Ohio Star of course reminded me of Christmas, I thought I’d make a holiday quilt with mine.  Online I found a couple free Tree of Life blocks.  I wanted my tree to be vertical.  Since the vertical axis of the tree is usually on the diagonal of the block, I figured out what size I needed the block to be so that it would fit vertically within the 20 1/2″ square format.   (PS–sorry about the double watermarks on the bottom of the photos…I’ll fix that on the next batch.)

First, there were a LOT of half-square triangles to make, both green-and-white and then red-and-white for the sawtooth border. The red pile on the bottom left is what I had after I “un-stitched” the original block (seen in last photo in this post).

For the reds, I used the red in the original red-green Ohio Start block plus a range of red batiks, all tone-on-tone.  Here I’m trimming, finger pressing, squaring up.

Hooray! I LIKE IT! I’ve got the components of the block pieced and ready to sew together. I used all the green and most of the red in the original block. For the Tree of Life I opted to use just one red square for my favorite East Coast bird: the cardinal; alas, we don’t have any our yard, but they are here in mid-coast Maine. I set the pieced bits out on my 20 1/2″ square ruler to gauge size.

Then on to the really FUN part:  quilting!  I knew I wanted to use a feathered vine as the wind swirling the snow around the tree, and I knew I wanted it to stand out and sparkle, so I used Superior Threads Glitter (a holographic thread–basically ya know the stuff they use to make mylar balloons?  sorta like that except cut into looooonnnngggggg flat strips) in Pearl / Crystal #111 (here).  This thread is amazing, as it looks clear/white/opalescent here, but when used on dark fabric, it looks like an irridescent green (the black quilt on the cover of my book uses the same thread!).  It’s important when using holographic and metallic threads to use a SLIPPERY thread in the bobbin;  I use The Bottom Line, a smooooooth, fine poly from Superior.  Once could also use clear (ugh), rayon (not my fave at all) or silk.  You do *not* want to use cotton, as the slubs on the cotton will grab the glitter or metallic threads and play not-so-nice.

Close-up of quilting on Cardinal in the Pine. Feathered vine stitched in Superior Threads Glitter (Pearl #111). Other background quilting uses Superior’s 40-wt trilobal poly thread in white.

An angled view of the quilting in Cardinal in the Pine shows the relief and (to borrow Pamela Allen’s word) puffosity of the quilting.

And the quilt with the block which inspired this challenge:

Cardinal in the Pine, 20 1/2″ square, with another of the original Ohio Star blocks. I used one of these blocks, a white-on-white (the back side so it wasn’t so garish), and red and green batiks.

The Coastal Quilters 2012 Chapter Challenge

Friday, September 7th, 2012

For the past two years (and the coming year) I’ve been the coordinator for our local quilt group’s challenge.  Last year, long time readers may recall, the quilts were to be 20 1/2 by 20 1/2 square and use an item from the grocery store as inspiration (see posts here and here).  THIS year we did the same size, but had to use a vintage block in the quilt.  This challenge was inspired by Mary Kerr’s Vintage Revisited exhibits which were shown at Maine Quilts.

The Coastal Quilters (Maine) 2012 Chapter Challenge

Mary graciously said of course we could do something similar!  So I went to troll eBay for Vintage blocks; no one set seemed to have enough for the usual 12-16 participants in our challenges, so I ended up buying two sets of blocks:  the red-green Ohio Star and the burgundy-cream Ocean Waves.

The results, once again, were STUPENDOUS!  We had the twelve completed quilts (several others wanted to make some, but life seriously got in the way…please send them comfort and healing).  From left to right across the two panels, the quilts are:

Top Row:

  • Eleanor Greenwood — Vintage Ohio Star Medallion
  • Jim Vander Noot –Three Sheets to the Wind and a Sail
  • Sarah Ann Smith — Cardinal in the Pines
  • Rebecca Hokkanen — Ocean Wave

Second Row:

  • the Ohio Star block, description of the challenge, participants/quilt names, description of challenge Ocean Waves Block

Third Row:

  • Prudy Netzorg — Waves of Fish
  • Karen Martin (alas her black border disappeared on the black drape!) — Flight to the Past
  • Mathea Daunheimer (sent all the way from New Zealand! where she now lives) — Progression:  Growth
  • Gail Galloway-Nicholson (made with wool!) — Simply a Star

Fourth Row:

  • Patty Courtney —  Leaving Ohio
  • Maggie Schwamb — Railroad Colors
  • Robinsunne — Expansion
  • Barb Melchiskey — Block Swap (the blocks have velcro and you can move them like on a design wall!)

Here’s a close-up of the two blocks:

Our challenge blocks. The red-green blocks had some fading on the green but were meticulously hand-pieced. The Burgundy-cream were made from old-fashioned shirt ticking prints.

And on display at  Maine Quilts 2012 in the Chapter Challenge aisle:

The small Chapter Challenge aisle at Maine Quilts 2012 (, put on by the Pine Tree Quilt Guild, Maine’s statewide guild

If your group would like to have a similar challenge, we had very brief requirements this time.  I wanted a consistent size as the quilts look better, more cohesive on display.  For our statewide show, Maine Quilts, the small challenges must be pinned to a backdrop.  A couple years ago I bought some plain black in an estate sale and use that for my drapes.  The consistent size also makes it much easier to arrange the quilts and estimate size of the final display (required on the Maine Quilts entry form). The rules were to use at least 40 percent of the original block on the front of the quilt  and that the fabrics must be recognizable.  As luck would have it, we ended up with almost an equal number of quilts from each block.  Barb was so inspired that the muse carried her away to a slightly larger sized piece (on the bottom right).

In my next post, I’ll share my quilt, Cardinal in the Pines.

CQ 2013 Challenge, First quilt

Friday, December 16th, 2011

Coastal Quilters 2013 Challenge: Favorite Place

Hi all…yes, I’ve been seriously missing, and as usual, that also means BUSY.  Among other things (which I will blog about in the coming days), I made this small quilt (in this photo, not yet quilted….that tells you how busy…it’s done except for sewing down the facings now).  Among other things that keep me busy and happy, is Coastal Quilters, the local chapter of Maine’s Pine Tree Quilt Guild.  I’ve been active on the board doing this or that for, well….basically since we moved to Maine 7+ years ago.  At the moment I am co-Program Chair and co-Challenge Coordinator.

Every August, CQ has a picnic at one member’s camp cottage (a “camp” in Maine is usually a rustic, uninsulated building somewhere in the woods or on a pond or lake).  Like most camps, this one is reached by a dirt road which astonishingly now has a name, not jut R.R.  (rural road) or F. R. (Fire Road) plus number.   But the road is still dirt, still so bumpy you need to drive at a crawl, and has “camp tree”…. a tree at the fork in the road with boards nailed to it.  Each board has a name and some sort of arrow so you know which way to go.  Joan also kindly always puts out some cheater-cloth dresden plate squares as flags to keep us going to the right place:  the family cottage on the shores of Pitcher Pond.

Why this digression?  well, we announce the Challenge in December or October, so by August I am starting to think about getting things organized.  And for the past two years, I have deputized all present at the picnic to be my advisory committee!  Since it was rainy and dreary this year, there were only a few of us (five, plus Joan’s husband and their dog).  Eleanor had been greatly inspired by the Twelve by Twelve book and Challenge.  See, my friend Deborah Boschert is one of our mini-group as well as part of the Twelves (see their website here), and she came from her home in Maryland for our show this summer at the library (see here 1, here 2 and here 3).  Eleanor really wanted to do a challenge like that.  So we summarily decided that in addition to the 2012 Challenge (using a vintage block, inspired by Mary Kerr’s Vintage Revisited, here), we would ALSO announce the 2013 challenge! We came up with a list of themes, and will announce one every other month at the unveiling of the “current” theme quilts.

Our first theme was Favorite Places.  Eleanor also completed a quilt  (interestingly, I chose my spot on the sofa in the living room, and Eleanor did a site map of her home–totally unknown to each other), and since this challenge was her idea, I asked her to pick from our list of themes for the next one:  Cycles!  Try Googling cycles and you’ll come up with all sorts of cool possibilities.  I hope we get more participants; I hope to let others choose the themes.

So that my local chapter members have a place to look, I’m going to include the instructions right here, along with the themes.  Hope you enjoy–feel free to adapt / use these guidelines to set up your own challenges!


  • Due December 2011:  Favorite Place
  • Due February 2012:    Cycles

The 2013 Coastal Quilters

Chapter Challenge!

In a nutshell:

  • Every two months from October 2011 to April 2013 we will issue a challenge theme.
  • Make a 13×13 inch quiltlet that relates to that theme and bring it to share two months later.
  • You do NOT have to make ALL the challenge themes.  You can make one, several or all.
  • For at least ONE of the challenges, you must incorporate a traditional quilt block pattern/design/something into the piece is some fashion.  You may do this just once, a few times, or for every challenge.
  • Please include a label on the backs with this information (see below for possible limits on display)

Your First Name Last Name

Date (May 2012 or whatever)

Coastal Quilters 2012 Chapter Challenge

Your address/contact info

More details:

At the 2011 Picnic at Joan’s camp on Pitcher Pond, Eleanor  said she was inspired by Deborah Boschert’s Twelve By 12 Challenge group and the book.  She wanted to do something similar.  Sarah deputized those present (Joan, Louisa, Louisa’s sister, Eleanor) as her Challenge Advisory Committee, and we came up with the general guidelines and themes for this 18-month challenge to be shown at Maine Quilts in 2013.  Here’s what we decided:

  • Quilt must be 13 x 13 inches to go with the year 2013
  • Puns are allowed/encouraged
  • Each quilt must have a front, batting, back and suitable edge finish
  • You must include a traditional block in some fashion in at least one of your challenge pieces
  • We will have 9 themes distributed over 18 months
  • The first three themes are decided; we have ideas for the rest, but participants may suggest additional themes and we might possibly revise the list

If we have too many 13×13 quilts, Sarah will figure out how many we can display, then set a maximum number that any individual can have on display.  Those with less than that number may display all their quiltlets.  Those with more than that number will select which ones they want to hang at Maine Quilts.  As has happened the past couple of years, Sarah will do up the entry for our challenge and arrange the display.

Please include a label on the back with this information

Your First Name Last Name                        Coastal Quilters 2013 Chapter Challenge—[theme]

Date (May 2012 or whatever)                        Your address/contact info

More information:


If you have any questions, contact Sarah Ann Smith at

The Twelve by Twelve International Art Quilt Challenge book is available in many locations, including on

ISBN-10: 1600596665 or   ISBN-13: 978-1600596667

The Grocery Challenge, Part 2

Wednesday, September 7th, 2011

Alas, I missed Maine Quilts this year, where these quilts debuted.  (The good news is that I was teaching at Quilt Nebraska…more on that soon!) Here is the display (thanks Louisa for the photo!) of our challenge quilts at the Maine Quilts show:

The Coastal Quilter's Challenge quilts on display, with curious viewers

And a close up of someone looking — and the photos and tags:

A close up of Louisa Enright's A Thousand Flowers and my quilt, the clipper ship

From all reports, the quilts and display got lots of attention.  On the far left and far right I included a blurb about the challenge itself (the requirements I talked about in the previous post).  I then pinned photos of each of the products and asked viewers to figure out which photo went with which quilt.  I numbered the quilts, then made tags with lift-up fabric to reveal the  identity of the quilt by number, the maker, the title, and the product.

And here is the right hand panel that I’ll feature today–you’ll note that the photos don’t necessarily correspond to the quilts on that panel, I wanted to mix things up!

The right hand panel

A Thousand Flowers is at the top left:

This honey is a locally produced, raw, organic honey available at the local Farmer's Marke, again Louisa got the OK from Clay and Maggie King to use their label and wording. Quilters could use colors seen through the packaging as well as the label, hence Louisa's honey colored hexagons!

A Thousand Flowers by Louisa Enright. Using the traditional paper-pieced hexagons for the honeycomb was perfect, and very time consuming! Louisa also stamped bees onto the quilt, words, and more... absolutely WONDERFUL!

I wanted to do something Maine-ish, and trolled the aisles looking at labels for a while.  I found my inspiration in something I don’t usually drink:  beer!

Shipyard Ale. I thought the town on the label looked more like Wiscasset, but I wanted to make mine the Camden Harbor (the library is on the right!).

While at Quilt Festival last November, I chanced upon John Flynn’s booth.  I had mulled over how to do the storm at sea border that I had in mind:  fused?  painted?  Then I spotted his miniatures quilt.  Yes, insane.  The small square in a square block FINISHES at 1 1/8 inch!   I also learned that miniatures are VERY bumpy and I would have done better to set aside my beloved “skimming” free-motion foot and used the hopping “darning” foot.  I had to tug to get the lumpy bits under the skimmer foot, and that wasn’t so good for the quality of my stitching.  Bummers.  Oh well…lesson learned!

Sarah's quilt...of course can I remember the name right now? No! Sheesh.. I think it is From the Schooner Coast (since this area was known for shipbuilding and the windjammers). This one is based on a photo, used with permission of Capt. Jenny Tobin, of the Schooner Louis B. French. The library is to the right of the sail and the hills are the Camden Hills silhouette.

Millie chose sardines for One in  a Million:

Notice the Reny's (a Maine store) sticker!

And her interpretation in cloth:

Millie Young's One in a Million. Isn't that fish GLORIOUS?

Barbara Melchiskey is a master at appllique, which she used to great effect with Heinz 57 Ketchup:

Heinz 57...notice the tomato....


Barbara Melchiskey's Tomato on a Vine. Love the gold beads to make the 57!


Next is Maggie’s Maruchan kid…she even got written permission from Maruchan to make this design using the logo on the ramen package:

Maruchan ramen

Perfect! Maruchan by Maggie Schwamb. The workmanship is impeccable!

And in the final dash to done with me was my co-program chair Gail Galloway-Nicholson.  She sent me this photo and said it was a Cline Vinyards wine.  I immediately replied:  “Cline Vinyards?  From California?  As in Nancy Bunting Cline?”  Now how the heck is Gail supposed to have a clue what I’m yabbering about…

Cline Vinyards Cashmere wine

So I head (where else) to Google, source of instant knowlege.  Yes indeedy, it is Cline Cellars!   And why is this such a big deal?  Well.. I went to high school in California (just north of San Francisco, San Domenico School)  with the then-Nancy Bunting.   A few years later this funny lady (she is still witty) married a guy named Cline.  And they started their own vinyard.  And I can now go buy their wine here in Camden, Maine!!!!!! How utterly amazing is that????????? I checked the Photo Gallery pictures and yes indeedy that is Nancy…like me a bit older, a bit of gray, but still Nancy!  Shall we all join hands and sing a chorus of “It’s a Small World After All” while enjoying Gail’s quilt, with 3-d awning over the shop and soft and fuzzy fabric for the Cashmere in the window?

Gail Galloway Nicholson's Cashmere--notice the "C" on the label and on the awning!


I cannot tell you how thrilled I am at the challenge, the results, and the outstanding work done by these 11 ladies and one gentleman!   Here’s to the next two years of challenges!