Ten Around Penhill

At last I am returning to the Travel Quilt series. I was enjoying writing about them and then hit one that needed to be photographed before I could write about it and that just shut me down…..I couldn’t get motivated to photograph it!!! Does that ever happen to you….something so small just shuts you down???

Anyway…. the next quilt was from a fun day in 2007 in the Yorkshire Dales of England.

But, that is the end, let’s start at the beginning…..

When we lived in Australia in the early 1980’s, we became enamored with the James Herriott series, “All Creatures Great and Small” We watched the TV shows, we read the books, and we dreamed of the day that we would visit the glorious Yorkshire Dales.

That day arrived while we were on a two month trip to England where Michael was a Visiting Research Fellow at Merton College at Oxford University. He worked most days while we were there and this side trip was his reward for the hard work!!

We arrived at our Bed and Breakfast and started talking to the proprietors. When they found out that we enjoyed hiking, they suggested that we take a hike around the dales the next day, following a 10 mile trail!!

We had a marvelous day as we hiked up the hills……

crossed over the stiles……

lunched at a local pub……


passed farm after farm…..

got lost numerous times

We arrived back at the Bed and Breakfast tired but with memories of the wonderful sights of the day…..

Now let’s get to the quilt……

I wanted to make a quilt for Michael that would remind him of our wonderful day of hiking. I started by playing with two pieces of fabric that I had purchased on the trip…..

…..and then discovered that they were part of a collection …..

I picked photos that I loved from the hike and searched for quilt blocks with names that spoke to the day as well…..

Then I started playing on the design wall, using photocopies to help me determine the size and placement of the various elements……

And came up with this quilt……

It was fun to include road signs and Farm Names as part of the quilt…..

We still talk about this wonderful day in the Yorkshire Dales and long to return sometime to do a LONGER hike….one where you hike from Pub to Pub and your luggage is transported and waiting for you when you arrive. Doesn’t that sound like fun!!!!

The 2021 Color Challenge is underway!!

If you are interested in a simple block challenge for 2021 that is food AND color based, check out Patterns By Jen.

During the year, we will be feasting on Eggplant, Lemons, Yams, Cherries, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Limes Mushrooms, Pineapple, Grapefruit, Blueberries and Green Olives. Is your mouth watering??

3 Reasons to Look at the Colors of Fruits and Vegetables
courtesy of deannaminich.com

Along the way, bloggers will not only share their colors and ideas but also their favorite recipes using these fruits and veggies.

You can find the overview here, and the first block (Eggplant) is presented here…..

And….if the challenge itself isn’t enough incentive, each quarter various sponsors will offer prizes to participants….

Won’t you join me in this fun way to fill out that 4th line of the healthy food pyramid!!!

Free Vector | Healthy food pyramid chart

Stay tuned for my version of the January block……

Westalee Spin-E-Fex Ruler #3

I have taken a small break from demonstrating the Westalee Spin-e-fex rulers but there are still two to go. So, today let’s take a look at the Spin-E-Fex Ruler #3…..

As you can see, this one is shaped a bit differently to the others. It produces a nice leaf or floral type design.

Have a look at the video and see how much fun this particular ruler can be…..

The “wreath” design is pleasing…..

….and if you flip the ruler over every other petal, you get a tulip sort of design when the two petals face each other……

I think that you will like the simplicity and ease of this ruler so, if you have it, pull it out and give it a whirl…..literally!!!

It’s scrap clean-up time!!

When I moved into my “new and improved” studio last March, I searched thru all of the boxes and bins and pulled out ALL of my scraps, dumping them into a large basket. As the year progressed, I continued adding bits and pieces from the projects that I worked on. At the start of December, the bin was overflowing…..

I started to work thru it a number of times but just couldn’t get motivated because I knew that it would take a LONG time to do!! Finally, I pulled out the fabrics and sorted them by color…..sort of……

The next step was to iron each color and group into three stacks….the bits, the chunks and the hunks!!

Bits are the pieces that can only be cut into small squares….1.5, 2.0, 2.5 or 3.5 inch.

Chunks are pieces that can be larger squares……5+ inch.

Hunks are longer pieces that can be cut into strips…. 1.5, 2.0, 2.5 and 3.5 inch.

Once I had everything ironed, I started cutting the two smaller groups….orange and yellow/gold…..

It was a good start, but then the holiday s came and I didn’t get back to this particular project!!! The ironed fabrics were carefully laid back into the basket…..

If nothing else, it looked a lot better!!

Last week I decided that I wanted to start the new year with this basket completely cleaned out so I made this task a priority and, although I didn’t quite make it by the 1st, I did get it finished on the 2nd!!!…..

Doesn’t that look great……

As I was cutting, I started wondering exactly WHY I was doing this but remembered someone saying that you pay the same for the scraps as you do for the yardage. That spurred me on!! But also the thought of having all of this cut and ready to use just makes me happy!!

The question now is whether I can set a schedule and clean it out every few months rather than waiting 2+ years!!! As with all things…..time will tell!!!

Polly Want A Cracker…

Back in the 1980’s Michael and I spent 6 years in Canberra Australia and loved every minute of the time!!

We were particularly enamored with the birds and horrified our Aussie neighbors by chasing a Sulfur-Crested-Cockatoo all around the neighborhood trying to get a good photo. We then learned that it had a nest in the tree in our back yard!!!

In 2008 we returned to the Sunburnt country to visit with friends and for Michael to do some work. Fortunately, some of the visiting took place on a sailboat in the Whitsunday Islands!!! Many mornings we had visits from a series of Cockatoo’s who were waiting for the proverbial cracker!!

I attempted to shade the sun with my hand but I am extremely glad that my efforts failed!!

Hand-dyed Heaven

These past two weeks have put me in “hand-dyed Heaven”!!

One of my friends has a reputation for making marvelous hand-dyes!! Due to health reasons, she decided to get rid of most of her fabric and I was excited to be able to purchase the majority of her hand-dyes.

After I had washed and dried them, I started wondering exactly WHAT HAD I DONE…..

After several days of ironing and folding, I have three wonderful shelves full of special fabrics…..

I especially love the ones with these lines…..

There were several surprises mixed in and I can’t wait to figure out something special to use them for…..

These night skies are also intriguing!!!

I am so looking forward to using these in future projects!!!

…oh….if you need hand-dyes, just give me a call!!

Quilt Big….

I am still trying to learn how to use Julio (my Juki Sit-down long-arm) and I think that it is going pretty well!!!

I am much more comfortable with using rulers and am seeing better speed control. But, I wanted to know if I could quilt BIG……fill a quilt with large format, unmarked designs.

I turned to another charity quilt for practice.

I visually divided the piece into four columns and started quilting using a different pattern in each area. The first was a simple side-to-side column down the middle of the quilt…..

Next was a simple stipple pattern…..

….followed by a loopy stipple…..

….and finishing with a funky flower with lots of echo quilting…..

The actual quilting only took about an hour….it took longer to baste and bind than it did to quilt!!!!

It was a great exercise in QUILTING BIG and was so much fun to just cut loose and quilt FAST….FAST…..FAST!!!

One thing that I learned is that I tend to clench my jaw when I am sewing on Julio, so guess I need to remedy that by putting loud music on and singing at the top of my lungs….you can’t clench and vocalize at the same time!!!

So….. if you are driving past my house and hear loud caterwauling, you will know that Julio and I are sharing some quality time!!

Winter Blues

Let’s get this new year started out with the quilt that moved me into my “monthly quilt series”.

When I first started quilting, I really needed a REASON to make a quilt….not like now when I will make one simply because I want to!!!

Our house didn’t have lots of wall space so hanging a bunch of wall hangings just wasn’t in the plans. So, I got to thinking about having one area (in the entryway) where I could hang a different quilt every month. You see what I did there…..I could make TWELVE quilts and still have a purpose for them!!!

And, to make it even more special, I wanted a surface underneath that I could decorate to match the quilt!! A friend of ours was a woodworker and he built this pie safe to match my specifications (mainly that it be tall enough that I could hang a 30-36 inch quilt above it)…..

But back to the quilt!!

One day I was drooling in my local quilt shop and saw this wonderful fabric….

I immediately thought of the term “Winter Blues” and the quilt seed was planted!! If I remember, the pattern came from one of the Trudie Hughes books about template free quilts (my introduction to rotary cutting).

I loved the way it looked……

The quilt was 34 inches square and I made it it 1994….over TWENTY FIVE years ago.

As my kids went thru school, I often did talks to classes about the art of quilting and this quilt was the one that I used to start my presentation. I would start by showing the various shapes of fabrics…..

…..and then show how these shapes were used to form the different blocks…..

I was younger back then!!!

…..and then I could show them a quilt that contained a four-patch…..

….flying geese…..

…..puss in the corner…..

….and square in a square……

The quilt is proudly displayed every January…..

….and makes a great start to the new year!!!

What now??

Congratulations….we survived 2020!!! Now bring on 2021…..


2021 has the potential to be an exciting year for Michael and I. He is starting to write a book about the rebuilding of various ecosystems in Africa and needs to have a fair amount of time with “boots on the ground”. COVID permitting, we will be in Africa three times in 2021 for approximately 8-9 weeks in total.

courtesy of history.com

My job on this trip is to be a second set of ears for information and to also document the trips in photographs. I am super excited about this part of my job but realize that I MUST find time in the next 4 months to practice with the new camera and lenses. The hardest part is finding a place to photograph objects that are moving!! I an happy with my ability to photograph things that are firmly planted in the ground, but am not as certain about moving animals!!! So, let’s put that at the top of my “MUST DO” list.

This could be me…..but with shorter and darker hair!!!

As a second thought, maybe I will just send Michael out into the backyard and tell him to jog around for a couple of hours as I photograph him!!!

I am also excited about my FrancesQuilts side-hustle!! I am planning to bring out at least two new patterns in 2021, develop two new guild programs that can be presented online and continue writing a daily blog. Having said this, I also recognize that the daily blog may be hard to keep up when we are traveling WITHOUT decent internet so I will just have to see how that goes!! And, as another thought, it may be hard to keep up with during income tax season!! We will just play that one by ear!!

As for creative goals, there are a bunch……

I want to continue with the Morewood Mystery that will end next summer.

I am going to be a blogger participating in the Color Challenge 2021 by “Patterns By Jen” ….

You can check out her blog here and learn all about the challenge. Jen has encouraged us to be creative when we are presenting our particular monthly block and to think about the “flat lay” photo. I had never heard that term, but have since watched a Craftsy class about it and am excited to figure out how I can “up my game” with my block photo. My first month is February so stand by for more about that!!

I was so encouraged about the portrait collage quilt from last year and would love to try another one. I just have to find a photo that inspires me. Hopefully there will be at least one on the Africa trips!!

I want to get the “Parasol Dancers of Green Lake” underway. If I can get it organized and layered, it would be a good thing to keep under the needle for when I have a few minutes of time during tax season.

I have recently watched a class about curved piecing so who knows what might come of that.

I want to continue to increase my proficiency in machine quilting, both with rulers and without. To this end, I plan to quilt a lot of charity quilts and MAKE myself try new patterns and not just stick with the old faithfuls!!

I could go on for days and days about the things that I want to do this next year but now I need to prioritize them and just get started!!

I recently listened to a podcast about having a “Don’t Do” list!! It suggested taking all of those items that you have moved from list to list over the last months, years or decades, realizing that you aren’t motivated to do that task and to take it OFF of your ToDo list. That takes away the guilt of not having accomplished it yet and lets you focus on the things that you ARE motivated to do!! Maybe I need to look thru my FIVE page “brain-dump” and do just that!!!

So now I am feeling overwhelmed and behind…..time to say Happy New Year….. and get upstairs to the studio!!!