Over the weekend I was in Reedley, California, for their semiannual quilt show. Reedley is not far from Fresno. That’s right, Fresno, where the hot sun turns grapes into raisins. It was 99 degrees on Friday. My neighbor Donna and I nearly suffered heat prostration trying to get everything loaded in and set up.

I was delighted to be there, though, because the amazing Janice Whittington was one of the featured artists!

Jan Whittington

Jan Whittington

Jan’s daughter Shamara runs Second Chance Fabrics, a genius concern that rescues unused fabric out of quilters’ stashes and gives it a second chance! Jan helps out at the booth at shows, and mom and daughter have become buddies of mine.

Part of Jan’s display was a collection of Biology Quilts. Let me see if I can get the story straight. Jan’s husband Nathan, Shamara’s dad, is a high-school biology teacher. When they moved to a new building, the high ceilings made the room echo. Plus, the articulated cow skeleton couldn’t come along, so the space that had been dedicated to it in the new classroom was now bare. On top of that, the school administration sent down a decree that there could be no nails in the new walls.

Now you know what a quilter does with bare spaces and echoing halls. Jan immediately started on a series of quilts to go in that new classroom. The rebel in her came out. She went down there herself to put the nails in the walls. “They’re not MY boss,” she says LOL!

Here are some of the pieces in her amazing biology series.


Octopi for Nathan

Octopi for Nathan

Inspired by her husband’s many coastal class field trips.

The Bug Collection

The Bug Collection

The first quilt Jan made to help baffle the echoes.

Wee Beasties

Wee Beasties

My personal favorite. Now how many people do you know who’ve made a bacteria quilt?



Here’s another of Jan’s quilts that I just loved.

Aztec Rose

Aztec Rose

From the Aztec Rose Garden pattern by Colette Belt. Longarm quilted by Cynthia McGunigle of Mac Quilting, Fresno.


Beautiful pattern, beautiful colors, beautiful appliqué.

Well done Jan!

By Sunday the temperature had gone down to “only” 85. The local residents said they were grateful for the cool weather.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

A number of you have asked about reverse appliqué. It may sound mysterious, but it really isn’t.

Appliqué (sometimes referred to as direct appliqué) is covering up the background fabric with motifs.

oak-leaf-reelOak Leaf and Reel from Inspired by Tradition. This is regular ol’ appliqué.

Reverse appliqué is cutting away part of a motif to reveal the background fabric, or another fabric.

rose-basketRose Basket from Inspired by Tradition. The basket has a touch of reverse appliqué. I inserted the gold fabric behind the body of the basket and when I cut out and stitched the decorative ovals, the gold was revealed.

That’s it! Nothing more to it. The stitching is all the same. Just remember:

Appliqué = Covering up what’s underneath.
Reverse appliqué = Revealing what’s underneath.

Hope this helps,
By Kay Mackenzie

Before the lights went out in San Diego, I was tromping up the aisle, and someone was taking a picture of a quilt. Naturally I turned my head, and then I put on the brakes hard. I can spot my teapots at 50 paces! There was the most glorious oriental teapot quilt. I stood there with my jaw on the floor.

Tea Ceremony by Marjorie Kilcrease, 109 x 120

Tea Ceremony by Marjorie Kilcrease, 109 x 120

Most of the teapots are from my Teapots 2 to Appliqué. I got the chance to talk with Marjorie a couple times during the show. She was beaming with pride over her quilt and so was I. Here’s the story of this masterpiece, from Marjorie herself.

When I saw Kay’s book on teapots, I fell in love with it. However, I kept thinking “Are you crazy? This is applique!” I collected oriental fabrics for about two years while I was trying to figure out how to display the teapots. Then I found the center panel with the Geisha holding the teacup.


Next, I found the block pattern called BQ2 by Maple Island Quilts and it looked very oriental to me. I was ready to sew!

This was my second appliqued quilt. I used the directions in the book to enlarge the patterns by 150% so they would fit on a 12″ block. I used a freezer-paper method (ironed to the back) with spray starch to anchor the edges down. Then I used the liquid basting to adhere the teapot parts to the block. The final step was machine-stitching the teapots. My husband designed three blocks for me too. The whole project took about four months.


The quilter, Wendy Knight, did custom quilting. In the black horizontal strips are names of tea or words like ‘happiness’, ‘peace’, etc. The vertical black strips have bamboo quilted in.

I had bought a large backing but still needed to enlarge it to make sure there was enough for the quilter. My husband helped me mimic the front design and we offset the black strips (instead of centering them) and then I used another panel that I found to add a decorative touch.


The quilt is for us and will take its turn on our king-size bed. However, all of my friends want me to put it in our will and leave it to them! They’ll need to discuss that with our two daughters though! :)

What Marjorie didn’t mention is that her quilt won First Place in Viewer’s Choice!


Congratulations Marjorie!!

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

You may have heard about the Great San Diego Blackout of 2011. Guess where I was. At the San Diego Quilt Show at the Convention Center, Hall H.

At about 3:30 in the afternoon the hall went pitch dark. An “oooh” went up all around. A few seconds later the emergency lights same on, about one-eighth power. You could see to get around, but the quilts in the show and the wares in the booths were only dimly visible.

The convention center announcer came on the loudspeaker and informed us that the power had gone off.


A few minutes later, the voice of the cenvention center came back on and told us that the power outage was county-wide. Wow. That’s when we knew we were in for it.

The show attendees started to trickle away, because really, when you go to a quilt show it’s nice to see the quilts. We vendors hung around for awhile to see what was going to happen.

Rumors started flying! No power from Mexico to California! It’s all the way to Phoenix!

My neighbors and I were chatting in the twilit aisle, and what should come around the corner but a conga line of show committee members. We laughed and laughed. “It’s all we’ve got!” they said as they conga’d down the aisle. I thought that was so sweet.

There was no water in the sinks at the convention center. They were those fancy automatic power faucets. The custodian helpfully suggested that we could rinse our hands in the water fountain outside, which was still functioning.

At about 5:30 the vendors started to straggle out. Getting back to the hotel was not that much fun. Rush hour, and no traffic lights. A ten minute drive turned into about half an hour with the lovely four-way stop at each intersection. There were lots of emergency vehicles and sirens whizzing around, as apparently some folks forgot that a dead traffic light is like a stop sign.

I made it back to my hotel safely and was very glad of it. Thankfully the room key card worked. Fortunately (because there were no restaurants) I had a salad in the mini fridge and a microwavable lasagna, but of course no power for the microwave. I ran the last of the hot water over the container. Lukewarm lasagna… hey, not that bad considering the circumstances!

It was still light out but the dark was coming. What in the world would I do until bedtime? There was no TV! I tried calling my husband, who was at Cape Kennedy in Florida to observe the launch of the GRAIL moon mission. There was no connection to the cell-phone network. The towers were down. By the same token, there was no email function on the phone either. No wifi, no internet. I picked up the landline in the hotel room. Nope.

bitty-flashlightIt got truly dark and I dug something out of my purse that always stays in there but is rarely used: an itty bitty flashlight that Dana had given me years ago. You squeeze it for a burst of light.

My brand new iPhone also provided a modicum of light if held out before me like a beacon. Together with the itty bitty flashlight I could get around the room okay. But I was worried about the battery in the cell phone.

All of a sudden, I remembered that I had brought the netbook along as a “backup.” A backup to what I wasn’t sure, except that the cell phone was so new. The netbook had a really good battery! With it I could charge up the cell phone! So that was one less worry.

For something to do (did I mention there was no TV?) I considered using the netbook to write a draft of this post, then realized that I couldn’t see to type. (Alas, touch typing is a skill I never acquired.) But I discovered that if I slanted the monitor way forward, it shone enough light on the keyboard so that I could see and type! Amazing.

Since the hubby and I were supposed to talk that night and couldn’t, I hoped he had heard about the power outage on the news or perhaps googled “Has San Diego fallen into the ocean.”

So many things we take for granted in our day and age. It was very interesting to be powerless. It really gets you thinking. Just imagine:

No traffic lights
No cell phone
No telephone
No restaurants
No microwave
No internet
No email
No wifi
No light
No air conditioning

It was a lot like Falling Skies except that the cars still worked.

But I was safe and I was fed, and that’s what really mattered. The power came back on in the middle of the night and the next day at the show we were back in business.

More later,
By Kay Mackenzie

Welcome to the North Pole goes to… Debbie St. Germain! Congratulations!

Debbie is a regular blog reader and reports that she has been trying to get this book from the library but apparently someone liked it a little too much to bring it back. She plans to use the designs for some Christmas things this year, so hopefully we’ll see some photos soon! But Debbie, no pressure :).

In other news, I’m about to embark on a busy spell of traveling to quilt shows. I just finished a couple of mini quilts made out of single blocks from my Baskets to Appliqué Pattern Pack to hang underneath the sampler quilt.

Daisy Basket

Daisy Basket

Knitting Basket. This one is actually a combination of two different designs. It's fun to mix and match the contents with the baskets.

Knitting Basket. This one is actually a combination of two different designs. It's fun to mix and match the contents with the baskets.

Here’s where I’ll be.

Sept 8-10, 2011
San Diego Quilt Show
It’s the 30th annual show of the San Diego Quilt Association! The show is held at the beautiful San Diego Convention Center, right on the water.

Sept 17-18, 2011
Quilts & Threads Show
This is the Sierra Quilt Guild’s 22nd annual show, held at the Mother Lode Fairgrounds in Sonora, California.

Sept 24-25, 2011
Kings River Quilt Festival
The Kings River Quilt Guild puts on this 300-quilt show in Reedley, California.

I’ll be home in between times, so I hope to get a few posts in there.

Until next time,
By Kay Mackenzie

Guess what came out in 1997 and is still in print?

The fabulous Welcome to the North Pole from Piece o’ Cake!


This is one of my personal favorite books. I got it when it first came out and it sits on my bookshelf to this day. Back when I first got it, I made a little project for my friend’s parents, and loved every minute.

For Tess's folks, by Kay Mackenzie

For Tess's folks, by Kay Mackenzie

I jumped at the chance to get an additional review copy from Martingale / That Patchwork Place. The scenes in this book, which is subtitled Santa’s Village in Appliqué, are just utterly whimsical and charming. Here are a couple of the vignettes from Santa’s Village.



The book includes notes on fabric selection and preparation, information on the Piece o’ Cake gals’ hand appliqué methods, adding embellishments, and finishing your festive little quilts.

If you’d like a chance to win Welcome to the North Pole, leave a comment here on this post by 7:00 p.m. California time on Sunday, September 4.

Drawing open to U.S. and Canada addresses only. Remember that if you’re subscribed by email, you’ll need to click on the title and come over to the blog itself to leave your comment.

By Kay Mackenzie