Five years ago…..

There are certain things in each of our personal histories that we will NEVER forget!!! It may be a wedding, a birth or even a death.

Sometimes though it is an accomplishment and that is what I am remembering today.

In October of 2015, Michael and I participated in a 10 day trek in the Himalayas, climaxing at Annapurna Base Camp!! On October 8, 2015 we reached what seemed to be the top of the world…..

At the top with our guide Badri

After 6 hard days of climbing stairs and crossing rivers, we were there!!

The scenery was astounding…..

….and the sense of accomplishment was huge!!!

Interestingly, one of my favorite parts of the day was spent by myself in a dry lake bed, just enjoying the sight of the mountains surrounding me and hearing the glaciers breaking and falling on far slopes

Naturally, when I got home there had to be a quilt about this trip and inspiration started with the Buddhist shrines and Stupas that we passed on our journey and also the prayer flags that fluttered in the breeze.

Those inspirations and ruminations resulted in “Himalayan Hallows”……

I was pleased when it was accepted as into the “Tactile Architecture” exhibit in 2017 and loved that it traveled during that year.

This is what I wrote about the quilt for the exhibit and I think that it is the best description that I could ever give…..

I almost feel that this quilt should be called “Serendipity” because so many things happened during the construction that were not planned by me but ended up being exactly what I wanted to portray.  I started the project knowing that I wasn’t sure how I would complete it and  that at any point, I might ruin it, but decided that I just wanted to enjoy the process and see what happened.

As I worked on it, I thought about our 10 days of trekking to the Annapurna Base Camp and how the mountain called Machapucherie was always in our view.  It is the highest peak portrayed in the quilt.

I also fondly remembered the Nepalese guides and porters who assisted us on this journey, and of the great care that they showed for each of the trekkers.  I  remembered how hard it was to say goodbye to them at the end of the trip and how we waved and waved until they were out of sight.

Finally, as I worked, I could smell the  wood smoke pouring from the teahouses and hear the sound of  the bells that hung around the necks of the pack animals that walked the trails with us. 

My  husband and I are privileged to have the opportunity to travel overseas often and I love making quilts that come from these journeys, but this one will always have a very special place in my heart and in my mind.


Back in April I had talked to Michael about the possibility of my getting  to Houston in November for the International Quilt Festival.   He agreed that it would be a good idea so I started making plans.

The first thing that I  wanted to do was to enter my “Himalayan Hallows” quilt in the show and see if I could get it juried in.  Well that plan didn’t work out so well because the final registration date had passed about 4 days earlier!!!!  But while I was on the site, I noticed that the registration was still open for a special exhibit called “Tactile Architecture” and I decided that since there was a structure in the quilt that I would enter it there.



This is actually a traveling exhibit so it will debut at the Festival and will then travel to other shows over the next year.

The quilt doesn’t have to travel and I debated about whether or not I wanted to send it away for such a long time but several people (including my husband) urged me to do so.

SO, on Monday I carefully packed up my quilt and took it to the UPS store to send it on it’s merry way.   It will be great fun to see it hanging in the show in November and then to hear where else it will be displayed over the next ten months.

Here is one last look…….


Now comes the critique!!!

Now that I have finished the quilt…..
…..I wanted to look back and critique the process that I used. 
 I was excited to try Susan Carlson’s technique and I really like the flexibility and spontaneity that it allowed. However I am not super happy with the raw edges that it leaves. Perhaps I should have used more glue but am glad that I didn’t because, when I started quilting, the thread would shred when I hit spots that had more glue. 
Since this is a very organic structure I am not too worried about the thread but I wouldn’t want to use the technique on certain other pieces. The bottom line is that I think I will continue to use the technique but will mix it with a fusible web at times. 
On the positive, the hand of the fabric is better than with a fusible. 
I also enjoyed using various paints to slightly change the color of the stones and REALLY enjoyed using sponges to apply those paints.   As a matter of fact, without having done this first, I would never have thought to use the sponges to paint the trees on the “No Fishing” quilt.
 So the question is what to do next…. 
 I am in the middle of quilting my Queen size Pineapple quilt and want to have it finished for the upcoming show so that will be my next project, but what after that??
 I am pretty sure that I want to pursue more of these pictorial quilts from our travels. Michael suggested doing one based on the fishermen pulling their nets in….
 I am drawn to the way that all of their legs are in the same position. 
I also thought about this photo of our trek guide, Badri, making a water buffalo very happy.. 
The look on the buffalo’s face is one of pure enjoyment!!! 
I have also thought about the pack horses that we saw on the Nepal trek…..
 The sound of the bells around their necks will stay with me for a long time.
 Then there is this photo of Chinese women enjoying their morning exercises….
 I love the positioning of their bodies and the parasols 
So I will now head off to quilt and ponder what will come next.
Michael is also going to be looking for a new project soon.   Today he finished all of the leather work and just has the staining to do……
….and yes, he does have his next project picked out!!!

Fun With Flags!!!

Frances M. Arnold



 If you are a “Big Bang Theory” fan you will understand this….if not, well you should be!!!!
As I was nearing the end of my quilting, I started thinking again about the prayer flags that I wanted to add.   If you remember, my original idea was something like this…..

And, although I like the look, I really wanted something that provided more perspective.  As I was showing my friend, Anita, the quilt, I noticed that one of my inspiration photos, hanging next to the quilt, had a wonderful series of flags.

SO…..the original flags were taken off of the design wall and I started working on how to work these new flags!!   The first step was to get a pattern that was the right size.   I did this by making a line drawing of the flags…..

…. and then enlarging them using my printer.  When I pinned them up, I knew that I was on to something…..

Hmmmm….this definitely shows promise!!!!

I really wanted the flags to be 3 dimensional (at least the larger ones) so I fused two pieces of fabric together, cut out the flag and then painted the edges with Fray Check.  The smaller ones were simply fused together.

To attach them to the quilt, I put a small strip of Wonder-Under to the top of the flag and then fused it in place.

I found a bit of yarn that worked for the string and finished off the display.

I put the finishing touches on the opening……

After adding some grass quilting around the base of the monument and squaring it up, I could declare it finished!!!!

Tonight as I am finishing the binding, I have to admit that I am sad to see the journey over.   It has been so much a part of my life over the last few months that I feel a  big void.   Michael’s answer was to pick another scene and start another one!!!
Speaking of Michael, his leather work is going well with him finishing the outside flap……
… well as the main pocket……

He will soon be thru with his project and I have already encouraged him to take his own advice and simply start another one!!!!

Dueling Hobby Saturday

Yesterday Michael and I both had fun days working on our respective hobbies, in our respective “studios”.  

I spent the day upstairs continuing with quilting the monument quilt…..

I love the texture that you can see in this photo!!

Michael, on the other hand, was in his workshop doing some hand work……

…..and learning how to perform a saddle stitch…..

At day’s end, we both had achievements.   I had completed the quilting (except for the sky….cant decide what to do there)……

….and Michael had finished sewing the flap on the “Possibles” bag that he is making…..

Such a fun day!!!   And, more dueling is expected this afternoon after Church!!!!!

Nepal Monument…..a continuing saga

If the last post seemed to cut off at a weird point it is because I accidentally published the draft before I got it finished!!   Obviously I am not quite competent with using the Blogger online editor yet!!

I had two more areas of details that needed to be added to the quilt before I could start the quilting process.

The first was to add some “donations” to the monument.   As we walked in the mountains, many of the trekkers would pick up a rock or a flower and put it into the opening of the monuments.  Some of them had wooden rods that people would tie bits of thread or fabric onto.  This is what I want to represent.  After playing around with ways to make small, three-dimensional flowers, this is what I came up with….

I am going to do all of the quilting and then add this after the fact.

The final area that needed some work were the mountains.  Although I like how they look, I felt that they needed some extra details in the large solid areas.    I started out adding small white strips of “snow”…..

…and then moved onto adding some darker crevices to the large snow areas.  After a few minutes of cutting out tiny slivers of increasingly grey fabrics I had the idea to just ink them on myself…..

…and of course the next step was to paint in some more of the snow areas…..
 I will add more detail with the quilting!!  So, here are the finished mountains.  I do think that these additions gave it even more depth.

By the way, the white strip under the spire is marking the area that I don’t want to quilt so that I can attach the flags.

I got everything basted in place and have started the quilting.   I am quite happy with the texture that is showing up in this process…..

I have also been re-thinking the prayer flags.  My original thought was to leave them flapping in the breeze but I am concerned what will happen to those fabrics once the quilt is stored.  I can imagine that they will get very wrinkled and flatten out.   SO, I am now wondering whether I can applique them down and still have them look “flappy”.    Every step of this quilt has been a challenge of some sort so I guess that I will just add this to the list.

……nearing the end now……..

Nepal Monument Quilt Update….

I figured that it was time to give you another update on the Nepal Monument quilt. 
Last week I had time to lay down all of the grass and I'm very pleased with how it looks…… IMG_2499

I will still go in and add a lot of details to the grass, including rocks and other things like that, but I’m pleased with the basics that I have right now.

I also decided to use a dark background for the monument opening as I think that it will be the best backdrop to the items that are going to be INSIDE of the opening.

I really am enjoying this new technique of just cutting the fabrics and pinning them onto the background.  It only took two hours to lay down all of the sod (grass), and another hour to glue the pieces down.


But now I have to take it off the wall to work on a new project. My guild has a challenge that’s due on Tuesday (it is now Saturday),  and I have an idea that I want to run with.   So, I have started working on that.

I am also spending the day with my friend, Marianna, helping her make a quilt for her granddaughter!!!

I said that I wanted to find some creative time in December and I have done it!!!!



Nepal Monument–Part 2

The second step for the monument was to put the spire on.  I decided that the one I had originally drawn was not the right size so re-drew it and started picking fabrics.   Again, I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for, so I added some Metallic silver paint to change the texture of it a bit.  IMG_2256

I was happy with the design, but didn’t feel as if the perspective was right, so I went to an expert, my Daughter-In-Law Amber, for help.    Her first suggestion was that I cut the three pieces apart and play with those some…..


Amber is an Elementary school art teacher and a very accomplished artist and she jumped right in to help me…..


Her suggestion was that the spire was too upright and needed to have some angled movement in it.   IMG_2402

I think that she was right!!!

The next part of the piece was to get the mountains in the background.  I was torn about these because I wanted them to show up but not to overtake the scene.  I found one photo that had a nice view of the mountains and used that for my pattern.

By a serendipitous occurrence, the  size ended up to fit the quilt perfectly.IMG_2252

I started off working from a color photo on my computer…..


…but then realized that it was much easier to see the shading from a black and white version.

I had way too much fun filling in these mountains, playing with the colors and shading until I had a pleasant design that showed the depth of the scene…..


I was excited by the fact that, although I used the photo to help with the shading some, I was able to do a lot of it intuitively….a FIRST for me!!!

The next obstacle was to get all of these pieces glued down and get rid of the pins.  I started working with the bottle of glue as I had before but decided that a stiff paintbrush was easier to use….


I also realized that it would be easier to work from above the pieces so pulled out a stepstool to give me a little height……


After I glued all of the mountains down, I took it to the machine and outline stitched around each piece.   My plan is to add a lot of quilting and hopefully the outlines wont show much.  I am very happy with the progress so far…..


Next will be the grass and rocks leading down the path.

Nepal Monument – Part 1

Many people asked Michael and I why we wanted to travel to Nepal to trek in the Himalayas.  It all started when we watched Michael Palin’s series about the Himalaya Mountains.  One of the things that captured my imagination in these shows were the pictures of Buddhist temples covered in prayer flags.  We saw those images while in Kathmandu but not so much while we were hiking.  Instead, as we walked, we passed many small prayer monuments.  Our trek leader, Badri, said that he wasn’t religious but I noticed that he would often place a small rock, stick or flower on these monuments as we passed.

So, as we trekked, I kept visualizing the quilt that I wanted to make to commemorate this trip and I knew that it was going to focus around one of these monuments.

I started planning the quilt late last year, searching all of our photos for the perfect picture to use.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find ONE photo that had everything I wanted so I decided to use bits and pieces from several of them.

This one had the look that I wanted and showed the aspect that I desired, but I wanted the monument  to be wider rather than taller……


I used this as my pattern but extended the front so that the shape was different and also added a rectangle opening.   It came out looking like this…..


I enlarged the design, traced it onto a very fine interfacing and started adding the fabrics, using a Wonder Under backing…..


But, I didn’t like how it looked!!!  The grouting was the wrong color and the rocks looked too stiff.   At this point, life got busy and this project got packed away and put into the closet.

Now, fast forward…..  While we were in India, I found a blog by Susan Carlson  ( Susan Carlson Quilts ).  You may have seen her twenty foot Crocodile quilt or one of her other “Specimen” quilts.   As I read her blog, I found that she free-cut her fabrics, gluing the edges down before she quilted.   I also discovered that she had written two books so I ordered both of them and this one arrived first….


In this book she made use of paper patterns for the pieces, cut them out of fabric and glued them to a piece of muslin.

In her second book…..

Cover art

….she dispenses with the paper pattern and instead draws the design on the muslin and cuts the fabrics to fill the spaces.

Since I felt more comfortable using a pattern, I chose the first method and started cutting and placing my fabrics on my interfacing backing…..


I was immediately happier with the more organic look.

After I had placed all of the fabrics and got ready to glue them all down, I realized that I couldn’t glue onto the thin interfacing because it would just seep thru the interfacing and onto my design wall.  Instead, I traced the pattern out on a piece of muslin and started the slow process of moving each piece off of the wall and onto the base…..


Per Susan’s instructions, I used a VERY thin line (dots actually) of “Aleenes Original Tacky Glue” and slowly added the pieces….one row at a time.

I was basically pleased with the outcome…..


….although I knew that the opening needed some work (it is not yet glued down) and I also felt that there were too many color variations in the rock.  I had the idea to add some paint to blend the colors together more, using a thin translucent grey in two shades.  I used a sponge to add the color and, although I started the process with much feat and trepidation, I was happy with the end result…..


I moved to the sewing machine and started thread painting around each of the bricks, adding more thread and texture to the grouting.  After I had finished the thread work, I turned it over and gave it a good pressing from the back.  I was thrilled to see that the rocks had actually wrinkled a bit in the process, adding yet another serendipitous dimension to them…..


I also made the decision to have the opening go all the way thru the monument, although that may change again at some point.

Happily I have now completed the FIRST step in this quilt design.  Next will be to create a spire of some sort to go on the top.  Then I have to figure out how to add snow covered mountains to the background without them taking over the focus.  Finally will be adding the prayer flags flying from the spire and hopefully staying in perspective as they flow out of the picture.

Contemplating the prospect of the project is daunting for me, but just like on the trek, I plan to take it one step at a time!!  Hopefully the end result will be worth the journey, but regardless of the outcome, I am determined to enjoy the process to its fullest!!!

Trekking Gear…..


I wanted to do one more post about the trek, this one talking about the various equipment and clothes that we took……

As for clothing, we basically took three sets of everything…..three pair of Trekking pants (or skirts for me), three short sleeve shirts, three long sleeve shirts and three sets of socks (both wool socks and liner socks).

The “super stylish” skirts that I wore were from Macabi 


I told Michael while we were gone that I wish I had the foresight to shorten the skirt just a bit and take some fullness out of it.  When I just looked at the website, I see that they have a new “slim line” skirt that would have been better.

Even without these changes, these skirts were perfect for the trek.  I selected them because they covered my knees which was the culturally sensitive way to dress.   The skirt had two large pockets that were perfect for carrying my little camera, bandana, etc.   I will definitely wear them again!!!

Other clothing items taken were…..

– Rain gear (tops and bottoms)

– Fleece jackets (these were great to have in camp)

– Waterproof Parkas – these weren’t necessary since we didn’t have any wet or snowy cold weather but we could have needed them.  With our weather, we could have just used down jackets instead.

– Snow Pants  –  same as above….not used but we could have needed them

– Wool hats and gloves – the gloves were from “Smart Wool” and were amazingly warm even when damp

– Long Johns  –  we took two sets, but only used one


We each had a sleeping bag and silk liner.  In the lower elevations, we often just slept with the liner as it was too hot for the sleeping bag.

We had never carried inflatable pillows but found them to make sleeping MUCH more comfortable.

We were told to bring our Thermorest sleeping pads, but the pads that REI provided were super comfortable so we never even pulled them out of the duffel bags.

Headlamps were a necessity around camp, both for walking around after dark and for reading in the tent at night and packing in the early morning hours.

Instead of carrying daypacks, we chose to take our full packs from ULA (Ultralight Adventure).  These fit us well and we knew that they would be more comfortable than a day pack.  All along the trail, Michael kept asking my how my pack felt and I could honestly answer “what pack”?   I was only carrying about 10 pounds and I really didn’t notice it at all.

One of the most necessary pieces of equipment were our trekking poles.  They were used for balance and support and often for pulling ourselves up onto that next step.   After using them for 10 days, I was amazed that I could walk without them.

I mentioned this in one of the posts, but one of the best things we did was to take a Hydration System that allowed us to carry 3 liters of water with a tube and suction nozzle that attached to the front of our pack.  This allowed us to be able to drink while we walked without having to stop!!

At the last minute we were advised to also bring a Nalgene bottle just in case the water was too hot to put directly into the hydration bag.  Since all of the water was boiled, it sometimes hadn’t cooled down much so this was a necessary product to have.


As for non-trekking equipment, we may have gone a bit overboard, but it certainly worked well!!!

We took two cameras, the small Sony Cybershot that I love…..


….which fit perfectly in my pocket and was always ready for a quick photo.

We decided to purchase a new DSLR and after much research, decided on a Canon EOS 70D ….Canon_EOS_70D_front

After we purchased the camera, I started looking at various accessories and found this wonderful lens cap cover from OP/TECH USA……41yf1dTx2pL  It is called a “Fast Cap” and it screws onto the lens with the cover on a spring that opens easily.  It meant that we didn’t have to keep up with a lens cap!!

The next thing that we needed was a camera strap and some sort of harness for the trail.   I went back to the OP/TECH USA website and found a system that attaches short straps onto the camera itself and then has  a locking fastener that attaches the camera to whatever strap you are using.   We bought the normal camera strap….ProRed

….and also the camera harness strap….


  This strap worked well as it kept the camera from bouncing around as Michael walked.   Also, the camera itself could be easily unsnapped from the harness so that I (or someone else) could use it.

We were concerned about whether or not we would be able to recharge batteries along the way so we bought extras for both cameras (5 for the DSLR and 4 for the Cybershot).   We did not have any problems with recharging so we could have probably only taken 3 and 2, respectively.

I knew that I wanted to be able to organize my blog posts while we were away and had really wanted to be able to type them rather than hand writing.  After a lot of searching, I decided to purchase an HP Pavilion 2-in-1 Laptop.


The best features of this computer were that It can be used as a tablet or a laptop, it had a USB port, and it only weighed 2.4 pounds.  Let me say here that Michael carried this during the entire trip so his view may be that it weighed 2.4 HEAVY pounds!!! 

Finally, I knew that I would want to take notes on the trek, but also knew that I wouldn’t want to have to stop every 10 minutes to pull out my notebook so I purchased a Sony  Digital Flash Voice Recorder….


The next problem was how to attach it to the pack and Michael came up with a great solution to wire it to a carabineer and let it hang from my pack strap….


This worked perfectly as I could keep walking while I hit one button, recorded my note and then hit the button again to stop the recording.  Amazingly the batteries lasted for the entire trip!

At the end of each day, I would transcribe my notes and Michael and I would go thru the photos and write up any notes about those as well.   It ended up that I was too tired to actually write the blog itself but having these notes sure made it easier when I got ready to write.

The other thing that we did each day was to back up the photos.  The computer didn’t have enough memory to store all of the photos, so I would empty both memory cards onto the computer and then save them to 2 other memory cards which we carried in our packs.    It may have been overkill, but we sure didn’t want to lose the photos!!

In case you haven’t figured this out from the previous posts, we had a MARVELOUS time.   The trekking, the scenery and the crew were everything that we could have ever hoped for!

It is amazing to realize that we were in the middle of all of these stupendous mountains…..

Annapuna massif

….and have returned to tell the tale!!!


Thanks for traveling with us once again……