Painting Life

Painting Life: My Creative Journey Through Trauma by Carol K. Walsh (A Memoir). Berkeley, She Writes Press, 2016. 225 pages. "Questions for Book Clubs" **** Pre-order at Amazon

Walsh's story is a mesmerizing one beginning with the death of her fiance in a local indoor pool after meeting to discuss their wedding plans. Drawing from her experience as an artist, Carol creates a format to explain the creative process of "painting a life" and working through her personal trauma. Starting from an early age, she felt as if she didn't belong in her family. Consulting her mother's letters written to her father during World War II, family home movies, boxes of old photographs and personal journals, Carol recalls her childhood and at times analyzes it as a therapist. Because she wanted a boy when Carol was born, her controlling mother went so far as to write "male" on Carol's birth certificate. The error was discovered when Carol applied for a marriage license.  

This is one of those books that you will pick up and continue reading until you reach the end. Her story is compelling and analytical at times, however, relatable for most women. Trying to find herself and live with the choices she makes as a wife, mother, artist, and therapist, she has expanded her career to include "Create-A-Vision" coaching and this outlook is clearly represented in her writing. "Questions for Book Clubs" are included and this will make an excellent read for self-awareness or women's book groups to discuss.  This is Walsh's third book and I look forward to what comes next!

I received an Advance Reader Copy for a review.

Carol K. Walsh graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a BFA. As a serious artist, she wrote and illustrated a hard cover book for fiber artists, Designing for Weaving, published by Hastings House of New York. Later, Walsh graduated from Catholic University of America with an MSW and opened a private practice. As a therapist, she wrote and self-published The Art of Awakening Spirit. Walsh has been happily married for twenty-two years and is the proud mother of two daughters and four grandchildren. She lives in Maryland.


Singer 185K

My husband and I went on a mission to find an older Singer which would be lighter and easier for me to take to classes and workshops. I saw this machine and case at an Antique and Farmer's Market. The owner plugged it in and it seemed to work; the light was burned out, but I loved the color! The finish is scratched in some places and the case is cracked. 

It has no manual or accessories, but there is a metal box of parts and bobbins that the seller threw in with the machine. She agrees to a much lower price, SOLD!

My husband carried it to the car and remarked that it is heavy...

I stopped on the way home at a sewing shop and bought new needles and bobbins.

Now to clean it up and see if she sews...(yes, she's a girl, but no name yet!)


I found several wonderful YouTube Videos...Sourdough Girl has two videos that are a must watch before sewing! Part 1 and Part II

My biggest surprise was finding out that Singer offers a download of the Manual.

I took it out of the case, darn, it is very heavy (mu husband weighed it...30 lbs.)...no way am I carrying it to classes! Cleaned and oiled the heck out of it. The power cord shows no wear and it is clean and looks well-cared for. It will be a great machine for my 9 year-old-granddaughter to use. It sews straight stitches and reverse. Easy to thread, make a bobbin, and set the tension.

The stitches are loose and gathered...reread the manual and must have skipped the part where the bobbin thread needs to be guided through the bobbin case. It now sews beautifully!

The only negative is that the thread spool pin is in the wrong hole and there seems to be a broken pin in the correct hole. I don't want to pay to have it serviced until I decide if I am going to use it or if my Granddaughter likes it.

She needs a name, she's a Scottish lass (or maybe at her age...(50+ years)...a maven), any suggestions? 

Update...She is answering to the name "Nessa" which means from the headland. 

My Granddaughter loves this machine...she says that she loves the smell of old things and how sewing machines "sound." Nessa is a keeper!

I found a Singer sewing machine light bulb in a quilt store and my husband was able to change the bulb easily and it works.


Perfectly Good Crime

Perfectly Good Crime by Dete Meserve. Los Angeles: Melrose Hill Publishing, 2016. 282 pages. ****

In this second Kate Bradley novel, wealthy Americans are targeted by a modern day Robin Hood and robbed of over $20 million dollars of paintings, jewelry, cash, etc. Los Angeles TV news reporter Kate Bradley takes advantage of her connections with the police department and her senator father to unearth the motives and identity of Robin Hood. While trying to main her objectivity on camera, Kate is challenged when the spoils from the robberies are used to feed the poor and offer scholarships to teens who can't afford to go to college. Falling for the handsome Fire Captain Eric Hayes complicates her career path when she is offered her dream job with double the salary in New York. 

I received a Review Copy.

I didn't read the first Kate Bradley novel, Good Sam, I didn't feel as if I was missing anything. This novel may be read as a stand alone. Kate is a likable character who faces some tough decisions in her professional and personal life. When pressured by her politician father to give up the popular story of the rich versus poor and risk offending his financial supporters, Kate takes a gut-wrenching stance. Easy and enjoyable read, I am adding her first book to my reading list. I am looking forward to the next Kate Bradley adventure!

Dete Meserve is an award-winning author who is searching for Good. Like Kate Bradley in the novels 'Good Sam' and 'Perfectly Good Crime,' Meserve searches for people who are doing extraordinary good for others. While most mysteries focus on finding the killer or kidnapper, Meserve's novels focus our attention on finding the helpers, the rescuers, and the people who bring light and hope into the world with their selfless acts of kindness. When she's not writing, she is a film and television producer in Los Angeles and partner of Wind Dancer Films. Meserve lives in Los Angeles with her husband and three children—and a very good cat that rules them all. E-mail: DeteMeserve@gmail.com, Twitter @DeteMeserve, www.DeteMeserve.com

#SRC2016 @BookSparks #bestsummerever


Round Robin Quilt

My Quilt Guild,  The Brandywine Valley Quilt Guild, is starting a Round Robin at the next meeting. Why do I think everything will be easy? I thought I would just find a pattern, use fabric from my stash and ta-dah, a quilt is born!

Here are the Guidelines:

  • Center square should be a minimum of 12" square and a maximum of 16" square. (mine is 14")
  • Each round/border must be no more than 6" and no less than 3" wide. 
  • The rounds may include but are not limited to: checkers, flying geese, half square triangles, stars, embroidery, and/or applique. The border does not need to be symmetrical in shape, color or style. 

Due Dates - April 12th, May 10th, June 14th, July 12th and August 9th. 

Along the way, we received additional guidelines to make the process smoother:

1. Always use straight ¼ inch seams to add the border.

2. Measure, measure, measure, and make sure it is “square”.  Not really square, unless it is supposed to be, but that the top, bottom and across middle measure the same and the sides and down the middle measure the same before and after you add your border (Or close enough to be worked in – like within a 1/4th or less).  Unfortunately, if it is not squared up each round the problem multiples with each border. You can google quilt borders for instructions, but it is best practice to measure in 3 places and take the average as you border length.  Then work with the extra or shortage to make the ends line up.  If you have one that is significantly off, where averaging is just not going to do it – let’s talk

3. IRON.  Please iron and measure the piece again before passing it on.  Best Press is your Best Friend!! 

4. Make any adjustments you feel are needed and you can do so easily so you are passing on a good start for the next person. Everyone’s work is valued but if the next person cannot add straight borders I want you to feel free to make small adjustments to prior borders if you need to.  

Some suggestions of my own:

5. Trim all threads and clip "ears" if there are any. Check the consistency of your stitches and make sure that your back tension is good.

6. Be mindful of any pattern direction on the fabric.

My center square...

I decided on a "Glamper" because they are just so much fun. I'm not a camping kind of gal, but these fit right into my fantasy of hitting the road and seeing the USA. No Glamper would be complete without a flamingo and since I grew up in the 50-60s, the block needed a hippie flair. My word for 2016 is "Promise" so I had to include it somewhere!

Along with the center block, there is a journal for thoughts on the process, notes from the contributors, etc., a fabric gel pen, a label and suggested fabric to be used in the borders. I included a checklist of items as a reminder.

I found this box to put everything in...just happens to be aqua, my favorite color!

Our Guild Quilt Show is October 15th and 16th, perhaps you will see our finished Round Robin Quilts there!

Since that first meeting, I have been asked for a bigger bag for my top because the box is bursting. I am getting so excited to see what my top looks like now. I have to wait until August for the unveiling

Round 1- The quilter has chosen a Holiday panel and added a border of her own to start the process.

I pinned it to my design wall and stared at it for days... I decided I didn't have the right shade of red or green in my stash. Next decision was whether to continue the asymmetrical pattern.
Time to try out my paper piecing skills, I watched a Youtube video on paperless paper piecing. I traced the design on freezer paper and tried, I really did, with mixed results. Finally,  I just printed it from the computer and removed the paper from the back. I was determined to make presents and this is how it turned out... I like it, I hope she will too!

Round 2
The finished quilt!

After consulting with my LQS owner, it seemed like the next row should be flowers! Hexagon shapes were discussed because the last row had a garden path type design in it. The quilter before me did a beautiful job and I wanted to stay with the theme and enhance it.

I found this great website and tutorial on creating hexagons with free printable templates:
Moxy Ideas. I inserted cardstock in my printer and out came these lovelies!

There was a link to a tutorial on EPP and even though I had done it many times before, it seems like a good time to revisit the process. EPP Tutorial from Sunshine Creations.

 I decided the center needed a frame of black to set it apart.

I started laying out what I had in mind...Not loving it, I will need to purchase a Clover Bias tape maker to create the vine and look for more of the green fabric. 

I'm not really liking this border, back to brainstorming. 

I decided to make the one seam "flying geese." Ricky Tims has a great video demonstrating this technique. Flying Geese

It still looks like it needs something added. I turned the Flying Geese to provide a better contrast.

I played around with some circles to relieve the "Stack and Whack" border. 

I took what I had started to my sewing group to see what the ladies thought about it. Large and small circles randomly placed was suggested...I like it!

Round 3

Upon opening the latest bag, I was totally taken with this fall quilt. I love the colors and borders that have already been added.

This quilter also added a journal to include the process and pictures for each round. I am so impressed, I want to make one!

Our November Guild meeting will be a Demonstration meeting. Hopefully, I can persuade her to demo the process to make this journal. I love it!

I started thinking of a piano keys border. I have gone to three quilt shops looking for the green batik without success. I finally found a batik that will work color wise but I have rethought my original idea and think the border should be all one color to give the eye a place to rest. When I add a narrow border and then a 3.5 inch border, it is wavy and not really straight. I am taking that border off and remeasuring the top. 

There are a few problems with a prior border, so the coordinator and I are swapping tops.

This top is gorgeous and so busy...after consulting with my quilting peeps, we agreed that it should have a calming next border. I love the red "Grunge" fabric by Moda. There isn't enough extra fabric, so I drove to many quilt shops trying to find it. No success, however, I did find another red with a touch of gold in it. 

I added a narrow white border and then the red. I hope she likes it!
The finished top!

Round 4... I love this top (really, I love them all!)

The colors are so dramatic. The previous rows have really enhanced the center block. I think it needs some paw prints.

I am playing around with adding them in the corners above the mice. It's hard to see the mice and they are so cute.

What do you think?

One more row to go, I wonder what top I get next? Stay tuned...

Round 5 and the final Round!

Last row and the quilt I received is stunning! It is the quilt of a friend and she does outstanding work...I am excited and petrified at the same time. After looking at it for a few days, I decided that it needed a little down time and to do  a solid border. I wanted to draw out some of the red inner border, but there wasn't enough fabric. 

I called the quilter to see if she remembered where she bought it and she wasn't sure. No selvages left and no name of the fabric line. My Granddaughter and I checked with the closest quilt shop, no luck. But I did find a light lilac in the same fabric as the aqua. No, that definitely doesn't work. I found the bright pink and purple fabrics at Burkholder's Fabrics, but they didn't have the darker, richer red fabric. I purchased a dark purple and a brighter red in the same fabric line.  My plan is to add a purple border and then repeat the gorgeous multicolor batik fabric. 

The purple next to the quilt top is too bright with the braid border. I try the navy (more of a muted batik) and it looks best. Navy and then purple it is!

Now that the navy is attached, I'm not loving the purple and the multicolored border. Too much going on! I decide to try it with just the navy and a 3.5 inch multicolored border.

Ta-dah! I hope she likes it, I do!

According to the journal, she is going to add triangles with paper piecing in her border. I can't wait to see all of the finished quilts. Our meeting date is August 9th and we will each receive our own quilt top. 

What did I learn from this Round Robin?
  • 1/4 inch exact seams are very important 
  • Borders do enhance and add to a quilt. While making my previous quilts, I don't think I gave a lot of thought to the border design. I would just add enough fabric to make the quilt the size I needed for the project. 
  • If I am going to include fabric I want to be used in the borders, I should consider purchasing at least a yard. There needs to be enough width of fabric for the borders. The pieced borders are gorgeous but leave odd shaped pieces for future borders. 
  • A Round Robin is probably not the best time to try a new technique. I looked at Round Robins on Pinterest and the Internet and had the idea that the border needed to be unique or challenging. Sometimes, it just needs to provide a rest for the eyes.
  • The container to be passed around is important too...mine was bursting after the first round.

This container is ideal.

  • Not everyone follows directions, clips threads, irons, or measures to make sure the top is square. All of the participants need to be flexible and committed to doing their best work.
  • If someone is allergic to cats, dogs or smoking, this should be addressed before assignments are made each month. 
  • It is very time-consuming, I had no idea how much time it would take to plan, find fabric and then make the border. 
  • Math...Math...lots of measuring and remeasuring. Measure twice, cut once.

Would I do it again?

Absolutely! It is a wonderful experience shared with Guild members. I love the quilts, the many conversations, and consultations about the tops and borders. I am hoping to finish mine and enter it in our October BVQ Quilt Show.

My Quilt

All of the members participating waited anxiously in the front of the room. Two participants held up the quilt so that the owner could see it... It was so exciting...the quilts are gorgeous and everyone seemed pleased with the results.
Wow! I love it!
Update...I have delivered the quilt top to a longarming friend to have it quilted. I will post pictures when it is completed and perhaps enter it into the BVQ Quilt Show!

Here are the Round Robins hanging at the show...one won a ribbon!

 "Promise" is finished and hanging in the show!

#RoundRobinQuilt #Brandywinevalleyquilters #glamper 


Scrapstashtic Quilts

Scrapstashtic Quilts: Organizing Your Scrap Fabric Stash and ACTUALLY Using It by Janellea Macbeth. Paperback Edition, 2015. 63 pages. 19.99. *****

This is probably the first quilt book I have seen/reviewed where there are NO quilt photos. Macbeth does this intentionally so that the reader will have "the ability to apply your own creative statement to your Scrapstashtic quilts". Surprisingly, it works very well for this book. Macbeth provides her background in sewing and quilting and drew me right in from the first page.
Well-written and easy to follow, she suggests ways to organize a fabric stash and scraps in a way that will make it practical and functional. Macbeth provides a  printable flow chart organizing fabric scraps and encourages the reader to print it and hang it in the sewing room.
Quilt Recipes are provided to use up those scraps and she encourages the quilter to adapt the recipe.
Acknowledging that scraps do not always make the most attractive quilts, she has included a chapter on "How to (Mostly) Avoid Making Ugly Quilts." The Troubleshooting and Nuts and Bolts chapters are perfect to recommend to new quilters.

Only 63 pages, however, this is one of those quilt books that you will refer to again and again. I know I have seen some of this information before but not in a format so clear and concise. Recommended for a beginner and experienced quilter, great ideas for sewing charity quilts and Quilt Guild projects.

I received a copy of this book to review.

Janellea Macbeth is a creative individual who "arts" her way through life and spends capricious amounts of time playing with fabric. An avid hand, machine , and long arm quilter, Jan has been sewing for 31 years and quilting for 25 years. She has introduced many friends o the delights of cutting fabric into little pieces in order to sew it back into larger pieces of fabric, and hosts QuiltingFriends.weebly.com from her cell phone. She is joined in her sewing room exploits by her cats, who just want to help with EVERYTHING and a dog who very respectfully naps through every sewing session. Visit her website at www.janelleamacbeth.website/ or FB www.facebook.com/amored.flaneur?fref=nf



Digger: The Case of the Chimera Killer (A Sierra the search dog novel) by Robert D. Calkins. Washington: Callout Press, 2016. 337 page. *****

Seventeen-year-old Bryce is Washington state's youngest search and rescue (SAR) dog handler. He and his K9, Sierra, are called in to locate missing people and find bodies. While explaining what he and Sierra do at his high school, Bryce meets new student Katie who misses her own dog and is intrigued by the accomplishments of Sierra. Bryce and Katie are part of the team searching for the victims of a serial killer and are drawn into a local political power struggle. Bryce eventually discovers the identity of the killer and saves Katie from a savage beating.

A quick read and fascinating look into the world of Search and Rescue teams. Calkins weaves a mystery novel with a complicated plot while entertaining and educating the reader. Sierra takes the name of Calkins' first working dog, who searched for both live subjects and human remains. Fans of dog stories will want to add this title to their "must read" list. I look forward to future Bryce and Sierra adventures.

Simultaneously with Digger, Calkins breaks new ground by publishing two Read to Me Books for pre-school age children. 

Sierra Becomes a Search Dog is the story of a little Golden Retriever puppy who excels at neighborhood games of hide-and-seek. Sierra turns that skill into a life-saving act when a little neighbor girl goes missing. This attractive picture book illustrated by Taillefer Long includes Fun Facts to be enjoyed by both the child and parent. 

Sierra the Search Dog finds Fred - Ted's friend Fred goes missing and Sierra uses Fred's stinky shoes to follow his scent. Illustrated by Taillefer Long continues the format of the first book and is sure to be a requested favorite. 

A third book in the series is coming soon - Sierra the Search Dog saves Sally. 

I know a five-year-old dog lover who is going to thoroughly enjoy this series. 

I received copies of the books from the author for a review.

Robert “Bob” Calkins has been a search and rescue dog handler in Kitsap County, Washington, for more than a dozen years. He currently searches with K9 Ruger, a four-year-old Golden Retriever who is his third search dog. He and his dogs have responded to everything from routine missing person cases, to homicides, to the horrific landslide that in 2014 swept over homes in the tiny community of Oso, Washington.

Bob is the author of the Sierra the Search Dog series of books for children and adults. Keep up with the adventures of Sierra the Search Dog at her blog: www.sierraserachdog.com. Visit Facebook https://www.facebook.com/sierrasearchdog. More about Robert on his author page at www.robertdcalkins.com.