Musings from MillerQuilts

Archive for March, 2004

February/March 2004

Monday, March 1st, 2004

This month, one of several times I’ve written a two-month edition of the newsletter, has taught me a lesson. I sent the photos for a February newsletter to my web designer Carol, fully intending to write a newsletter to go with them. The photos seem from a very long time ago, since they are of SNOW in the yard, and now the crocuses are blooming, the daffodils are up and about to burst, and the tulips won’t be far behind! But since I’m writing this newsletter on the road, I have no choice but to use them to illustrate this newsletter! By the time I select the photos for the next newsletter it will look like spring arrived in the northwest in a rush!

I loved the Christmas tree so much this year that I left it on the front porch for a couple weeks after it was removed from the living room. What a delight to see it covered with snow for a couple days!!

I’m writing from Knoxville, Tennessee—sitting in a rocking chair at the airport just down the hall from my gate. I’ve spent a week in Pigeon Forge, teaching for A Mountain Quiltfest, which is a wonderful gathering at which attendees and teachers enjoy a hefty dose of Southern Hospitality (capitalization on purpose!!) What a delight—though we drove through snow a week ago to get to Pigeon Forge, the sun has been out the rest of the time, and I bask in its warmth wherever I find it!

A Mountain Quiltfest celebrated ten years in existence this year; this gathering is unique in that it seems like the whole town turns out to volunteer to guarantee its success. Two local quilt guilds co-sponsor it with Pigeon Forge’s Office of Special Events; classes are held all over town—from City Hall to motels to the Convention Center—and multiple quilt shows (free admission, believe it or not!!) competitions, and vendors galore make it a destination gathering for thousands of quilters from neighboring states.

Earlier in the month I headed for what I assumed would be the sunshine of San Jose, CA—but arrived just in time for a terrific storm system that hit the coast from the south, bringing gale winds, horizontal downpours at times, flooding, high tides, and all the ensuing problems! Of course when I gave my lecture to the Santa Clara Valley Quilt Association, I had to make clear at the beginning of my remarks that I did NOT bring the storm system with me! Luckily, there was a visitor from Bend, Oregon in the audience—so I blamed her as the carrier of bad weather…

Early February was spent in Jacksonville and Deltona Florida, quite a delight in itself. More sunshine…At the Honeybees Retreat in Jacksonville, I spent my birthday, and was surprised on Saturday night with the most beautiful birthday cake I’ve ever seen! My assistant, Linda, had tipped the conference off that it was my birthday that day…What was especially fun was acknowledging birthday wishes all day Saturday; a few people asked me how old I was. I responded “75”—and answered the ensuing astonished looks with “well, this is what 75 looks like”!! Amazingly enough, a couple people actually believed me, and the word spread like wildfire throughout the conference! At the final banquet, I announced that in fact I was NOT 75 years old on this birthday, and beseeched the conference attendees to not go home and cancel my future bookings at their guilds, for fear I wouldn’t live long enough to fulfill them…

The “Global Sailing Quilt”, made for Jan Hannaford to benefit the Save the Children organization, and Jan’s participation in an around-the-world yacht race that will begin in October this year. You can purchase chances on this quilt, which features work of quilt makers from all over the world, by visiting Jan’s website,

The other special delight was the resounding success of Mary Sorensen’s and my new collaborative workshop “Over the Fence Applique.” We were delighted with how much the students accomplished, and the workshop got rave reviews. Mary and I are now looking for more conferences or retreats at which to teach this class. We need three days: the students are with me the first day to create their Rail Fence background, they need one day in the middle to sew, then the 3rd day they are with Mary learning applique design to put on their Rail Fence background. Watch this newsletter for photos of the Florida students’ quilts, as they become available…

One of the delightful surprises in my professional journey has been the chance to participate in creating the “Global Sailing” quilt. I met Jan Hannaford in England a couple years ago, and heard about her plans to sail around the world in a yacht race. There will be 12 ocean going race yachts participating, each 72 feet in length. Jan is part of a crew of 7 women and 24 men, who come from Australia, Hungary, Sweden, Germany, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, USA, and England. The race begins in October this year, and will end in July of 2005. The progress of Jan’s team, called “Force 12″, can be followed on her website,

When I met Jan, she was gathering blocks from quilt makers in the countries which the fleet would visit, and wanted to make a quilt with them to raffle off to help finance the journey. I quickly offered to put such a quilt together.

The quilt top is assembled, is being quilted in England, and you too can buy chances on it to support not only the general boat fund, but the Save the Children charity as well. Good luck, Jan and crew—we’ll be watching your progress closely!

The most exciting development of the past couple months has been production of quilt tops for the new AnglePlay book…both results of my studio time, and the efforts of 54 quilt makers all over the country who are at work creating quilts to be considered, perhaps inspired by assignment packets I sent to them. It is such fun to see how different people head such different directions with their quilt designs, even when they all start with the same sheet of blocks. Watch this newsletter in the months to come for a sneak peek at the quilts that will be in the AnglePlay™—A New Look at Triangles book.

My “cleansed” studio is also producing wonderful results! Keeping the studio free of “stuff” plopped on any available horizontal surface (things that have nothing to do with the quilt under way on the wall or on the machine quilting table) has been a discipline, but one with wonderful rewards. The studio is now someplace I go eagerly to work…And no time is wasted sorting through stuff to get to the materials necessary to the project at hand. I am trying to do one new AnglePlay quilt top after every trip, which takes careful planning and attention to time management…So far, so good!

My fabric is stored in horizontal piles in barrister’s bookshelves (the kind that have glass fronts that can be lowered or raised). The idea was that the glass doors would be in a “down position” to protect the fabric from dust. The truth is that the glass doors have never been lowered, so that the fabric is always accessible . . . These fabrics are all one yard pieces, folded to fit the shelf depth.

I never buy more than one yard of any one fabric, unless it is a stripe or a variegated fabric, which I know I will use in multiple projects.

But the rewards are greater than I anticipated. I think I am accomplishing more in the studio than I ever have on a consistent basis; though I feel great time pressure with the book deadline looming, I still have time to dwell on each quilt design long enough to be satisfied with it. When a deadline hovers too close, panic interferes with my ability to concentrate and make artistic judgments; I lose my ability to determine whether I am pleased with a quilt result or not.

On the road, my intention is to use evening and early morning hours in hotel rooms for designing, writing, and planning the quilt to be begun when I get home. This takes discipline, too; and many nights it is hard to buckle down to writing or designing, when all I want to do is collapse after a day of teaching. I must admit that many nights, I just try to store up energy for the next day by not doing more than organizing for the next day’s workshop. But if I can just get myself to sit down at the laptop and bring up book files or play with AnglePlay™ blocks a little more on EQ5, the magic “energy factor” kicks in; I am soon lost in the writing and/or designing process, which is a great gift.

I‘ve been aware of this gift of creative energy ever since my boys were little; after a day too full of dashing to soccer practice, Boy Scouts, paper route, school activities, and perhaps a call or two from the principal, I would be almost too tired to put away the food after dinner. But on such nights, if I would go into the sewing room and sew even two seams, I’d get a second wind that could have kept me happily sewing half of the night. But I would make myself go to bed, to reserve some energy for the demands of the next day…

And so, until next month, I bid you a Happy Spring, wherever you are!