Quilts for Sale

Friday, February 29, 2008

And The Winner Is.........!!!!!!!!!

Laura WON the Best Mac 'n' Cheese Ever contest on Good Morning America this morning! She then got to cook with Emeril, preparing her divine recipe on the air LIVE. Laura was a natural and didn't skip a beat. I am so proud of her. Thanks to everyone who voted for my friend. Yeah!!!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Update on Laura

Had a note from my friend Laura this morning. She (and hubby Bob) are headed to NYC where Laura will appear on Good Morning America with Emeril. I am so excited for her! The winner will be announced live on Friday's (2/29) show. Laura and two others are the top three finalists. This is really, really awesome!

By the way, I made Laura's recipe. It is super delicious - very flavorful. And the topping is such an extra taste treat. YUM!

Thanks to everyone who voted for Laura's recipe. Watch GMA Friday and cheer for her. She is a sweetheart.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

My Friend Laura - The Star!

Vote for Laura's DIVINE recipe by going to:


Laura Macek, owner of Charlotte's

Visit the shop's website: www.sewingartsstudio.com

The five finalists for Emeril's Best Mac 'n' Cheese Ever Contest were announced recently. From thousands of entries to ABC's Good Morning America, my friend Laura is in the top FIVE! I am so excited for her. The winner will be announced Feb. 29 and will appear on Emeril's show. BAM!

The weather folks are predicting sleet and/or snow for tomorrow here. I think it will be the perfect day to make Laura's mac 'n' cheese. I've typed her recipe below. Don't forget to click on the link at the top of this post to vote for her. She is super nice and super talented. Now I need to find out how she keeps her girlish figure while making dishes like this!

Best Mac 'n' Cheese Ever from Laura Macek

1 head of garlic, roasted
1 tsp. olive oil
1 pound Cavatappi pasta
1/2 pound sliced Applewood smoked bacon
1 1/2 cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
8 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup minced shallots
1/2 cup flour
1 quart whole milk
6 oz. Gruyere cheese, grated
8 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

To roast garlic: Preheat oven to 350. Slice 1/2 inch off the top of the entire head of garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Wrap garlic head tightly in a square of heavy foil and roast until tender - about 45 minutes. Remove garlic pulp by squeezing garlic head. Smash cloves with a fork to form a paste.

Cook pasta according to package directions.Cook bacon completely. Drain on paper towels. Reserve 1 T. bacon fat. Crumble bacon when cool. To make topping: Combine bread crumbs, crumbled bacon, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and 2 T. of melted butter. Set aside. Saute' shallots over low heat in reserved bacon fat for one minute. Add remaining 6 T. of butter and continue to saute' shallots in butter and bacon fat until translucent. Add flour and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. Increase heat to medium. Stirring constantly with a whisk, add milk and roasted garlic paste. Cook until sauce is thickened. (It will coat the back of a spoon.) Remove sauce from heat then add salt, pepper, nutmeg, Gruyere and Cheddar cheese. Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary. Stir in cooked pasta. Pour into baking dish. Sprinkle topping to cover entire top. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes at 375. Remove foil and continue baking until sauce is bubbly and topping is browned. Enjoy!

Monday, February 18, 2008

Presidents' Day

Abraham Lincoln
16th president of the United States.
Feb. 12, 1809 - April 15, 1865

I was born and raised in the Land of Lincoln where our 16th president was and is much revered. He was the subject of many a history lesson, and his picture hung in nearly every classroom. Each student memorized the Gettysburg Address, his most famous speech which begins: "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal."

Still regarded as one of our greatest presidents, he preserved the union and emancipated the slaves. From the time I was a little girl, I've always felt a special connection to Mr. Lincoln, not just because I believe strongly in the dignity of all, but I believe what he believed and proclaimed, that "all men are created equal." The last thread connecting me to him was that he died on my birthday.

In these dark days when our nation's so-called "leaders" have destroyed
this country and nearly everything I hold dear, robbed us of our treasure and thousands of our youth, the words of Abraham Lincoln seem even more important:

"Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such a purpose - and you allow him to make war at pleasure. "

"Be sure to put your foot in the right place then stand firm."

We former anti-war activists banded together in the 1960's, marched and protested, argued and organized and in so doing played a major part in bringing an end to an unnecessary war. I believe it's past time to do it again! Take to the streets! Make your voices heard! PEACE NOW!

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Paint on paper, Patti Bryan
Copyright 1998

Today's post was going to be about my heart collection. But everything stopped when my sister Sue called me about the terrible shooting at my alma mater, Northern Illinois University. I grew up just three miles away, in Sycamore. Many of my classmates and their families still live in the area. What a senseless tragedy on this day meant for love.

Photo credit: Bill Guerrant

Monday, February 11, 2008

Federal Jury Duty

Although I was in the first group of potential jurors called this morning, I did not make the cut. I think it had something to do with my personal feelings about the Federal sentencing guidelines and my inability to make a really harsh judgment. So I'm back in my studio. Yeah!

I hope if I'm ever on trial, I get a group of jurors as conscientious and fair as the ones I saw this morning. The experience restored my faith in our justice system - at least for a while. Just don't get me started.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'll be Uptown for a While

Dear readers - I'll report tomorrow for a 3-week stint as a potential juror for Federal Court, so may not be blogging for a while. Although I've served on a jury before, this will be my first experience with a Federal court. I'm looking forward to it actually and take this civic duty very, very seriously. Bye for now! Ellen. xoxoxoxox

Friday, February 8, 2008

Rethinking Earth Tones

Toast with Jam
26" x 31"
Featured in the gallery section of Focus on Batiks by Jan Smiley

Detail of Toast with Jam

Most people familiar with my work know I work in brights. But for a complete change of pace, I took a departure from my comfortable palette with Toast with Jam. Starting with several batik swatch packs from Carol Britt www.batiks.com I added earthy commercial and hand-dyed cottons from my stash. I began creating irregular log cabin blocks, placing each on the design wall once it was stitched. To my great disappointment, the blocks did not speak to me at all; they had no personality. I searched through my hand-dyes and thrift store clothing for my favorite reds and purples. It wasn't until I added those shades to the mix that the piece started to work for me. I then had a grand time putting the blocks together.

Initially, I thought the quilt was going to have a rusty-red border. But an olivey/brown color hand-dyed by my friend Susan Webb Lee www.artquiltstudio.com was a much better choice. I selected several colors and types of threads (cottons, rayons, metallics) for machine quilting in my favorite wavy grid pattern. The border was then embellished with chenille cording hand dyed by my very talented friend Michele Merges Martens. www.michelemergesmartens.com
Using the #21 foot for my Bernina 1530, the chenille was couched down after the quilting was completed. As I didn't want the couching thread to show, I chose a monofilament thread in the top needle and used a zig zag stitch.

I was honored to have Toast with Jam selected for Jan Bode Smiley's book Focus on Batiks. www.jansmiley.com

Monday, February 4, 2008

To Sew.....or Not to Sew

A Damascus treadle sewing machine is part of the quilting vignette at the Lincoln County Historical Museum we visited last summer in Gothenburg NE.

My sister from Monterey has a darling house in the Sequoia National Forest - at the 5K foot elevation. She, her best friend and BF's son, headed up Thursday. The plan was to finish work on a bathroom Patty was redoing but mostly to have a few relaxing days of sewing. Things were going well, they were having a blast, and then came the email: "We're waiting for snow!" Seems they had 24" of snow and it's still snowing! The driveway is completely impassable. They also have no power. With propane for heat and a wood-burning fireplace on which they can also cook, they'll get along fine. And BF is a surgical nurse so can handle most things medical.

Having grown up in northern IL and also having survived hurricanes in the south, I have my emergency tub of essentials. But what are we going to do without our sewing machines for days on end? I jokingly told Patty we all needed treadle machines. Seems she just happens to have one in her garage. She's probably dragging it out as I write.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

More Stash Finds

An early piece, Favorite Things was the second quilt I ever made.

When learning to quilt, I had the good fortune to take a class from the late Mary Katherine Jarrell, the Grande Dame of Charlotte quilting. To say she left no thimble unturned would be an understatement. She was an incredibly gifted and technically demanding teacher. And although much older than the rest of us, Mary Katherine was the coolest woman we knew, as she drove a little Mercedes and wore cowboy boots!

Beginning with showing us "what a proper sewing basket should contain" to insisting that our blocks be "thread perfect" Mary Katherine guided us through every aspect of quiltmaking. Knowing we would be making a different block every week, I chose fabrics which would work together in the end. Favorite Things, a gift for my DH, hung on a wall in our diningroom for many years. It then moved to the den with its southeastern exposure. The light was the cause of its demise. Although we still have the quilt, it can't be used as many of the fabrics disintegrated.

I was rooting around over the weekend and came upon a bag of fabrics stored long ago. "Well looky here Gilbert!" (a line from one of my favorite movies - do you know which one?) I exclaimed. There were most of the fabrics I'd used in Favorite Things!

Many of these freshly laundered fabrics were used in my sampler quilt.

This fabric (Cranston Print Works) used for the border is still one of my all-time favorite prints. Am I moving towards earth tones for my palette? I don't know, but
they're really starting to speak to my heart!

My Mother's Final Quilt

My Mother's last quilt - the one she was working on at the time of her unexpected death.

Mother's final creation is finally nearing completion after a long delay. After Daddy died in 1983, Mother spent much time traveling to see her four daughters and grandchildren. Never one to sit idle, she wanted a take-along project.

Using the technique outlined in Georgia Bonesteel's Lap Quilting book, Mother had the inspiration she needed. She and I spent a lovely day choosing block patterns whose names held special meaning for a midwestern farm family: farmer's daughter, goose in the pond, windmill, hole in the barn door, flying geese, overall boy, sunbonnet Sue, wedding ring, a little house and others. I drafted the patterns, using Jinny Beyer's fabulous Patchwork Patterns book, so that all the blocks, whether 9-patch or 4-patch, would be the same size.

Mother had completed 15 blocks when we lost her. When her possessions were being divided amongst the four of us, my younger sister Sue chose Mother's unfinished handiwork and with tears in her eyes, asked me if I would finish it for her.

When I agreed to complete Mother's quilt, I had no idea how difficult it would be; not physically, but emotionally. From time to time I would pull it out, collapse with sorrow, and put it away again. It was a long time before I began to pull myself up. I then found working on Mother's quilt a comfort and a joy.

I took great care in choosing additional blocks to make, such as ducks and ducklings, anvil, and a nosegay which looked like an ice cream cone. After all, that was the favorite dessert in our house and we had it every single night!

The body of the quilt was finally finished last year. But there was not enough fabric for borders - and these fabrics were old enough to be considered vintage! I searched everywhere, even eBay, but to no avail.

Early 1980's fabrics Mother chose are shown in this detail. How many of them did you have?

I had nearly enough of these two fabrics for borders, but needed one more
in order to complete the 18" drop.

But then - I received a phone call from my baby sister Patty in California. Excitedly, she said, "Ellen - you will never guess where I am!" "Well, probably not. Where are you." "At the Travelodge where two sisters are having a fabric sale. And I think they have all the fabrics Mother used in her quilt!" "No way!" "Way!"

I sent cell-phone photos of some of the fabrics and Patty confirmed that they were indeed the ones needed. Two days later I received a priority box stuffed full with the following:

These fabrics are not just exactly like the ones used in Mother's quilt - they are even the same dye-lot! Who woulda thunk it?

This is the floral I searched for everywhere. I knew somebody had it, because we all used it at one time! I now have nearly 5 1/2 yards at my disposal! Thank you Patty! You are the only one I know who would hear of two sisters selling their mother's fabric stash in a room at the Monterey Travelodge! You go girl!

Patty's blog: http://pattycramer.blogspot.com

Additional note: I failed to mention another unusual aspect of this whole fabric saga. Mother lived in tiny Leland IL and purchased every bit of the fabrics used from Wanda who owned a quilt shop nearby at that time. I later met Wanda, who is a talented and prolific quilter, at QSDS. Check the comment she just left. And be sure to check her blog!