Saturday, May 10, 2008

Trail Ride Dreams Quilt

Here is another "Trail Ride Dreams" quilt, this one for another niece, Molly, who also graduated from Loyola Baltimore. I appliqued a few horses in the scenes. In this photo it is being displayed at my quilt guild's show. Molly goes trailriding with me each summer for a week in Missouri, a tradition my dad started for us many years ago. I think this summer will be my 28th trail ride there, and Molly's just a few years behind me.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Big Heart Ranch

My friend Wende lives on the farm down the road at Big Heart Ranch - a well named place for 10 retired horses.

Wende and her family have a big heart, not just for horses, but for everyone they know. Big Heart's reputation for good care of old horses is well known in our area, and horses come from over 150 miles away to have a safe and loving retirement. When it's their time to move on to Horse Heaven, Wende has the most wonderful ceremony to bid them farewell, before she buries them on the farm.

Her oldest horse, Count, is 36. Since Count made it through this past winter, I think he will be around for a good while yet.

If you ever want to spend the night at Big Heart Ranch, you can stay in their converted chicken coop. It has everything you need to be cozy and comfortable for a weekend stay.

What you receive in entertainment will far exceed the minimal cost to stay!
Wende and her family love having foreign exchange students. Last year Mathis came from Germany, and pitched right in to help with whatever farm chores needed to be done.

When his mom came for his high school graduation in May, she stayed in the bunkhouse, and loved the coziness of her private quarters.

Last year Wende's horse, Harley, took a bad fall on a steep trail, and Wende broke her leg. We all pitched in with chores as she organized us from her make-shift bed in the living room. She had time to think about redecorating that room, so my friend Chris and I were drafted to create a horse themed quilt for her.

Ride 'M Cowboy was the result! I pieced the quilt and Chris added the beautiful 'lasso' machine quilting. I found the silver conchos on ebay and used some leather latigo for the lasso. Wende found an old fireplace poker to 'thread' through the tabs and mounted some horseshoes to hang the poker.

Each time I thought I was finished with the quilt top, my husband would ask me a question. "Where are the spurs?" So back to the machine I would go, put in my silver metallic thread and added spurs.
"Where is his belt?" "Shouldn't there be some silver on the bridle?" "How about some horse shoes?"
I was really happy that he became such a quilt critique, because it improved the quilt immensely. He taught me a lot about quilt embellishment!
The quilt label reads: "For Wende, Even an injury on the trail can't keep a good cowgirl down for long. HTTY" (Happy Trails to You)

One of our dear horse friends passed away this year. Before Jane died, she made arrangements with Wende to care for her best friend, Aja.
Being with Aja is a little bit like being back with Jane again. I don't think Aja is as sad as we are, he's among new friends at Big Heart Ranch.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Quilts of Valor

Here are some of the ladies from the Q-T's quilting group showing some of the quilts we made for the Quilts of Valor Project. At one of our monthly meetings we brought our machines and fabrics and worked as a team to create our blocks. Other volunteers did the sashings, machine quilting and bindings. The next month we gathered for this photo.

The national project collects quilts for wounded veterans. According to the Quilts of Valor Foundation Web site, the project was started in 2003 by Catherine Roberts of Seaford, Del.Her son, a member of the 630th MP Company, was being deployed to Iraq. Roberts asked quilters to donate fabric, their skills and time to make quilts to comfort America's wounded soldiers. To date, the project has delivered more than 15,000 quilts to wounded veterans across the United States.
"For more information about the QUILTS OF VALOR FOUNDATION project go to their website at

Here is a website that demonstrates how to make the block that we used in our quilt :

Monday, May 5, 2008

Valley Surprise

Wow! Look what we woke up to this morning. The balloons go over all the time, in good weather, but this one actually landed at the neighbors and was the final destination. Our Black Lab, Zeus, alerted us to the commotion. If the balloon lands on your property, they give you a coupon for a free balloon ride. Well, maybe next time?

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Naperville ABC's Fund Raiser for Jeanine Nicarico Literacy Fund

Iowa artist Laurie Allen and her husband, John, take a trolley tour through Naperville in March to get acquainted with the city. Allen is making a watercolor painting, "The ABCs of Naperville," to benefit the Jeanine Nicarico Memorial Fund for Literacy.

The first time artist Laurie Allen "did an alphabet" was shortly after her friend's mother passed away. As a tribute to Elisha Darlin, several friends came up with a reading, "An Alphabet for Elisha." "As they were reading off the letters, I could see pictures dancing before my eyes," Allen said. "I started working on little drawings using pen and ink and watercolor and I eventually gave it to my friend."
The project was so well-received, and Allen enjoyed working on it so much, she soon began doing similar ABC projects, including one for her hometown of Dubuque, Iowa. She's also done drawings for Galena, Ill., and Door County, Wis., and does alphabet-based drawings for special occasions such as anniversaries.

Most recently, members of the Jeanine Nicarico Memorial Foundation for Literacy commissioned Allen to design "The ABCs of Naperville." Money raised from sales of the print will benefit the foundation, which works to promote literacy in the name of Jeanine Nicarico, a 10-year-old Naperville girl who was kidnapped and murdered in 1983.

Barb Jansz, a member of the foundation and recently retired River Woods Elementary School teacher, found Allen's work at a store in Galena.

"She called and asked if I would be interested in doing one for Naperville and I said sure," Allen said, "especially since it's for a worthy cause."

In early March, Allen and her husband visited Naperville to get ideas and "a flavor of the community" for the drawing, she said. While here, she met with members of the foundation and, among other things, visited Naper Settlement and took a trolley tour of the city.

Second-graders from across Naperville also submitted suggestions for the alphabet project, said Kitty Ryan, principal of Kingsley Elementary School. Allen will take these suggestions into consideration as she completes "The ABCs of Naperville," Ryan said.

An educational audiologist during the day, Allen said she has always had an interest in the arts. However, it wasn't until 1989 that she rediscovered her creative side after a good friend who was an art instructor talked her into taking a drawing class.

"I was hooked," she said. "And once I got hooked, I wanted to do more and more."

After the initial drawing she did in memory of Darlin in the early 1990s, people asked Allen to create more alphabet projects. To many, especially in her hometown, she is known as the ABC lady.

Of the ABC drawings, Allen describes them as "a little bit historical, (whimsical) and nostalgic."

"Hopefully it will provide some information a person didn't know about or trigger a memory," she said. "I try to incorporate some local things that are meaningful to local residents."

She also likes to include little surprises, she said. For example, one might expect B to portray the beach in Naperville and C to stand for carillon. Instead, she said, "the beach might be in the Naperville ABCs, but it might not necessarily be under B."

Along with each print, which Allen said typically are reproduced so they are easy to frame, she includes a key with explanations about the drawings.

In some cases, Allen finds creative ways to represent certain letters. For example, on one project she did, "ABCs for School Days," she drew two pencils crossed together to form the letter X.

Allen is now working on "The ABCs of Naperville" and expects to have a draft completed by the end of June, she said. She will then take the drawing to the Nicarico Foundation for final approval.

[] Contact staff writer Melissa Franic at or call her at (630) 416-5103.

Binding a Quilt

This year I have made lots of placemats and napkins for gifts - birthday gifts, thank you gifts, shower and wedding and anniversary gifts. My favorite placemats use flannel for the batting, and are finished by hand stitching the final turn of the binding. All these placemats gave me lots of practice starting and ending the binding so that you cannot tell where it begins and where it ends. It also gave me lots of practice in machine quilting.

I used to struggle with getting my binding to begin and end nicely. I knew there was a way that you could finish it so no one could tell where you began or ended, and the following website finally put it all together for me.

Here is a great tutorial that will help you put on perfect binding every time. No one will ever be able to tell where you began or where you ended. It is from Sarah London's blogspot in Australia!