Quilts for Sale

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Having Faith

Solid as a rock, Matthew and his bride Suzie wait for his pre-cath x-rays.

Yesterday our son Matthew underwent his annual heart catheterization. Although he has undergone more than 20 of these procedures since his heart transplant 15+ years ago, I still get butterflies in my stomach each time. I keep repeating to myself, "Have faith."

We arrived at Carolinas Medical Center very early so that paperwork, labs and x-rays could be completed prior to the actual cath. Dr. Ted Frank, Matthew's primary cardiologist, spoke with all of us in the cath holding area. Dr. Larry Watts who performed Matthew's bypass five years ago, also stopped by to say hello. We are so very fortunate to have such a great heart center and such wonderful, caring doctors just a block and a half from our house!

Dr. Sanjeev Gulati performed the actual procedure, in which the coronary arteries of the heart are examined. A scope is threaded through a catheter which has been inserted into the femoral artery. Injected dye allows the arteries to be seen. Everything went very well. The arteries are basically unchanged from a year ago, which is very good, and the graph from the bypass is clean as a whistle.

Matthew also had an extensive echocardiogram - an untrasound of the heart - which measures actual heart function. The 62 images were then examined by doctors who specialize in reading echos. We were elated to learn Matthew's heart function has improved significantly from last year. Hallelujah!

After four hours of lying flat to allow the artery to clot and prevent bleeding, Matthew was able to come home. He took a nap on the couch, Suzie and I fell asleep on the deck and Bill prepared a vegetarian birthday dinner for Suzie. We had whole grain peach and strawberry Savannah bars complete with a candle, for dessert. It was the perfect ending to a very good day.

I took this shot of Matthew having his palm scanned just as my husband and a receptionist
said simultaneously, "You can't take pictures in here!"

A Friend in Need is a Friend Indeed

Newlyweds Erin and Frank with Suzie and Matthew.
Best friends from college.

Matthew and Suzie drove down from Greensboro late Monday. We all joined their friends from college, Frank and Erin, for a delightful dinner at a great Vietnamese restaurant. Frank then ran next door to buy a round of sinfully divine pistachio Baklava for all of us! Yum!

Frank will always have a special place in our hearts as he once saved Matthew's life. When the kids were in college, he drove over an hour to Charlotte every night and then back home again, helping Matthew get through the excruciating 6-hour chemo infusions he had to undergo. Frank never left his side, encouraging him and feeding him ice chips when his father and I just could not bear it. Someone who has that kind of strength to do something so difficult and selfless is my version of a true hero. We'll never forget it.

An Early Birthday Celebration

Our wonderful daughter-in-law Suzie climbed the ornamental cherry tree
in the back yard for this shot.

I drove to Greensboro Saturday for the day. Since my DIL's birthday is the same day as my son's upcoming cath, the kids celebrated early with a cookout for family and friends. It was a beautiful day filled with great people, great food and fun.

Matthew grilled burgers and dogs for the crowd - with the help of good friend Dave.

Suzie loves babies. Here she holds Riley, son of Dave and Rachel.

Matthew and Suzie pose in the dappled shade. Their great Dane Darby
is shown in the background.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A New Venture: Art for Sale

I will now be offering some of my quilts, whimsies and small works of art for sale. Check the link under Ellen's Art for Sale in the right-hand sidebar to see what's available.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Fire Pink

Fire Pink - a member of the Pink family
Silene Virginica
Photo credit: Illinois Wildflowers Site

Hidden in the midst of Myers Park, one of Charlotte's oldest and most beautiful neighborhoods, sits Wing Haven. The four-acre garden and bird sanctuary was begun in 1927 by Elizabeth Clarkson. More than eight decades later, the garden is an inspiration - a secret garden - almost invisible from the street. For a glimpse, go to:

Gardeners in search of rare and unusual plants flock to Wing Haven's plant sale each spring. My DH, the early bird, was there when the gates opened while I waited until early this afternoon. List in hand, I had my heart set on finding a wildflower named Fire Pink. No - it was not to be found. Many of the expert helpers admitted they were not familiar with it.

A Google search was enlightening. The plant is rare and endangered, found only in central to southern Illinois and parts of Nebraska. No wonder I was drawn to the photo I'd seen in an old wildflower book. I must have seen it at one time as Illinois is where I was born and my grandparents once lived in Nebraska!

For more information on this stunning wildflower, go to:


Photo credit:

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Written Word

I spent most of this afternoon writing letters and notes. Not on the computer, but by hand. Such a satisfying thing, to convey thought using paper and pen. Today was my day to send birthday congratulations or thanks or express hopes and prayers to those who are ill.

The computer is a marvelous tool. But so many emails are read quickly and then deleted. Some of the most precious things I have are cards, poems and drawings done by my son Matthew from the time he was little. I have a special box which holds these along with letters and cards from my parents and other loved ones. I've read them so many times over the years. They make me laugh, they make me cry, they make me remember.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happy Birthday

Lovely fresh flowers from my DH.

Yesterday was my birthday. I know, I know. Not only is April 15 tax day, it's also the day the Titanic went down and the day Lincoln died! We'd planned to celebrate Monday night by attending a Chanticleer concert uptown. Instead, we were in the urgent care facility with semi-troubling symptoms. Turned out to be nothing more than a bladder infection, thank God.

Since my DH had a meeting last night which he absolutely had to attend, we're having an early dinner out tonight. There is a carrot cake in the fridge just waiting for candles.

I received tons of lovely cards and lots of thoughtful phone calls. My baby sister Patty arranged to have a beautiful plant delivered. She'd specifically requested "the youngest, cutest guy on your staff. Can you do that?" "We can do that." "And can you have him sing Happy Birthday to my sister?" "Yes, he can do that."

Unfortunately, I was upstairs when the delivery arrived. Although the young man told my DH he was supposed to give the flowers directly to me, and was supposed to sing Happy Birthday, directly to me, he did not succeed in getting past the gate-keeper. I'm going to go to Shelton Florist and thank them in person for a persistent attempt.

The stunning bi-colored Bavaria hydrangea sent by my baby sister Patty. Thank you, Patty.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

In Bloom

We didn't get into the garden until late this afternoon when the light was excellent for photos. My DH was kind enough to shoot the following. Be sure to click on each image for a closer view.

The Boticelli statue, from Bill's boyhood home, provides a lovely background for the Virginia bluebells. The white azalea was a Mother's Day gift from my son when he was in elementary school. He and a neighborhood classmate got off the school bus at a garden center and then carried their purchases all the way home - a trek of nearly two miles. Such a touching and thoughtful gesture.

Bleeding Heart

I've always loved the delicate blossoms of the bleeding heart. We had the pink ones on the farm, but I'd never seen the white until moving South.

My sisters sent this hothouse azalea home with me following our Mother's funeral, thinking our region had the best climate for the plant. We've coddled and even transplanted it, ever seeking the spot where it would be happiest. Just now coming into its glory, I think it's prettier than ever.

This lovely violet is going to be moved into the wildflower area shortly. It is hidden from view in its present location. I bought it from a garden shop because of the fragrance the plant exuded.

All photos: Bill Guerrant

Friday, April 11, 2008

Yard Art

I really like yard art, but it has to be whimsical. I'm not sure, lovely as they are, I'd ever get into gazing balls, towering fountains and waterfalls. And I know I'd never become fond of garden gnomes or concrete geese with outfits for every holiday. I could see those ancient colorful bowling balls lying about and halves of colorful china used as edging however. Now that would be fun!

I love our new egret found this spring. He looks lonely amongst the hosta tho. I think I'll move him to the tall ornamental grass area where he'll appear to be standing in a marsh.

We need more blue in our garden - in addition to this columbine and false indigo (baptisia) which is just coming up. Even though it was almost 80 here yesterday, a trip to the garden center will wait until after Monday's expected freeze!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Getting On With Life

Mother's little chicks - The Four Sisters
L to R: Ellen, Sue, Sharon holding Patty. I always loved plaid. We're all wearing puffed sleeves, another childhood favorite. Photo courtesy of Patty.

Photo credit: Alda vonOhlen Weedman

The loss of my Mother was so unbearable that I've shoved the memory of it way into the deepest recesses of my mind. I have yet to remember her death date, and didn't yesterday until my baby sister called. I then became very sad and tearful and remained so for hours. I hadn't had a day like that in a very long time.

I don't know why this year the date was so very hard. My sister Patty thinks it's because I've just completed Mother's quilt, a project so close to my heart for so long.

I was with each of my parents when they drew their last breaths. When my father died, I was OK for a month and then cried for a year. Mother's passing was just so horrible, for a number of reasons, that I cannot face it still - 19 years later.

Today I decided to lift myself up and really get busy. My nephew Chip (the same fellow who did the exterior of our house) came by to work up an estimate on long overdue painting of several interior rooms. He was very professional and very polite, but I don't think quite prepared for the amount of stuff we have here. He asked, "Aunt Ellen - have you ever considered getting a POD?" A POD? Moi?????

I was set in my mind to have the work done in May, as we're having house guests at the end of June. Chip and my husband convinced me it will take at least until July to get this place cleaned out and ready. At least this gives me time to do things right. There's already a plan in my head: have the mother of all garage sales, donate what doesn't sell, put things on eBay and take a couple of pieces of good antique furniture to an upscale consignment shop.

Just after our nephew left, two fellows we'd hired to mow the lawns (known as cut the grass in the South) arrived. We don't usually hire this done, but my husband hurt his back pretty badly while spreading a huge pile of compost over his garden. Now the yards are not only mown, they are edged! With all the rain we've had, they look nice and green.

The boys will return next week with a 'tiller to dig a couple of new flowerbeds for me. Getting one's hands in the dirt is very, very good for the soul. I'm already feeling so much better.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


Today is the 19th anniversary of my Mother's death. Our beautiful bird is gone.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spring, Heavenly Spring

We planted two varieties of camellias near the dining room bay window years ago. The white and pink striped one is called 'Peppermint.'

The view across the street from our driveway. I love the snowy whiteness of the dogwood.
Notice the cankerworm bands encircling each tree.

Hurricane Hugo took out a large dogwood on the east side of our house. Landscaping is definitely on our 'to do' list. I'm lobbying for a saucer magnolia or redbud for our front yard but major planting will have to wait until the drought is over.

A view of the rear of our house thru a Japanese maple tree our son Matthew planted when he was a little boy. A 'lovely' length of garden hose supports it from strong winds.
Click on the image to see the red and white yarn martinetza, given to my husband in Bulgaria. In March, Bulgarians hang martinetzas from their trees to welcome spring after a long, hard winter. These symbols remain until individuals see the first storks (plentiful in the Balkans). The birds are a sign of good luck.

Our first May apple blossom of the season.

This stand of May apples began with just one plant purchased in honor of my father who loved them.

The back 35' of our yard was a huge, overgrown, viney mess when we bought our house in 1972. We felt like Lewis and Clark hacking and clearing for weeks so that we could have a garden. This beautiful dogwood tree was a tiny little volunteer we saved. It makes a perfect canopy for the wildflowers.

Most days, I'm in our backyard on the deck or holed up in the studio. It's rare for me to view our house from the street. Between crop-dusting plane fly-overs yesterday, I photographed the neighborhood. It is so pretty right now with all the flowering trees and azaleas.

My husband and I are so grateful every day that we live on such a beautiful 80-year old street close to uptown. We took a chance on our house, which my father-in-law said "looked worse than the men's room at Grand Central!" It was pretty bad, and no one had been in the upstairs in many years. But we were young, strong visionaries back in the day.

Now that everyone wants to live close-in, our street has seen quite a revival. We love it here and will stay as long as the knees hold.

Monday, April 7, 2008

"Crop Dusting" in Charlotte

Five low-flying crop duster planes from Michigan began spraying 63,000 acres of Charlotte today.

This shot shows a plane spraying the Bt.

They were after these little green critters. Eeeeuuuw!
This tree was banded in the fall and spread with sticky tanglefoot.

I awoke early to the drone of a propeller plane. It sounded as if it was right over the house. I'd momentarily forgotten about the spraying.

Charlotte, known for its beautiful tree canopy, has been battling a little creature called the cankerworm for the last 20 years. It is deadly to shade and fruit trees. These pests, the larvae of the geometrid moth, can completely defoliate a 100' oak tree in a day. The infestation was so bad last year, we literally could not leave our house without umbrellas.

Urged by the City Arborist, citizens have wrapped their trees each fall with strips of tar paper coated with tanglefoot. The sticky substance traps the wingless females when they emerge from the ground in November to climb trees where they lay eggs.

The cankerworms are incredibly nasty, creepy caterpillars which hatch in the spring. The worst thing is the incredible damage they've done to our trees, already weakened by hurricane Hugo, a fierce ice storm three years ago and our exceptional drought. The most disgusting thing is, that when startled, they drop and hang suspended in air on a long, silky thread exuded from their mouths. The threads are so thin as to be nearly invisible - at least until you walk into one. Yipes!

The City of Charlotte went into full attack mode today, hiring five planes whose pilots will spend the next four days spraying with Foray 48B - known as Bt. My DH and I spent the better part of the day trying to photograph the operation. This proved surprisingly difficult. Although the planes were loud and we could hear them coming, it was hard to tell exact direction until we actually saw them. Then they were gone in seconds, as they were just above the trees and flying 100 miles per hour. I did manage to catch one on my first try, and then another just when I was ready to give up.

I'm so hoping this spray does the trick. I'm tired of thinking I've awakened in the middle of a Stephen King novel!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Randy Celebrates 15 Wonderful Years!

Randy and I reminisce and share a laugh at his shop which celebrated its 15th anniversary this weekend.

One of the nicest things about going to Greensboro, besides the kids living there, is that I get to see my old friend Randy. http://www.randysquitshop.com

I met Randy over 20 years ago when he took my log cabin class at Appalachian State. I had spotted him in the crowd early in the conference, as he was the tallest person in the room and was wearing a to-die-for shirt. Quilters speak a common language (known as fabric). When I rushed up to Randy to ask where he'd gotten his shirt, I learned it was a Randy original made from Alexander Henry fabrics.

When I walked into my classroom the next day, I was surprised to see Randy there, already set up - complete with his personal ironing board - set at just the right height so that he could twist and shout and sew and iron efficiently.

Although Randy told me some years later that mine was the first quilting class he'd ever taken, he obviously knew what he was doing way before that. Extremely talented, he was the first to finish the project that day - complete with borders! I was impressed then, and remain so.

Randy bought Fran's Quilt Shop in Greensboro many years ago. After a couple of location changes, Randy's Quilt Shop is now huge. It is also one of the best I've ever seen, carrying everything a quiltmaker might need and more. If you're in the Greensboro area and want a real treat, go to Randy's.

Over the years, I've witnessed not only Randy's quilting talent, but his amazing generosity, his incredible business savvy, his more than fair treatment of employees, his humor, empathy and loyalty. He's been a great help to me, as he's gotten me work, recommended me as a teacher and been a treasured friend.

Congratulations on 15 years, Randy! Luv ya! Ellen. xoxoxoxox

Stamp Your Art Out

I had a wonderful time yesterday with members of the Piedmont Quilters' Guild in Greensboro NC. On a chilly, rainy day, we painted and stamped our art out. The morning was spent on surface design, transforming white fabrics into pastel backgrounds with paints, pigments and a little salt. The plan was to let the fabrics dry outside in the sun. Instead, we placed the wet pieces on aluminum foil in a 200 degree oven for 15 minutes. Voila! We were ready to stamp.

At day's end, students had a nice collection of unique pieces. We used not only commercial rubber stamps, but found objects, kitchen tools and stamps made from cut foamies and the insides of light bulb boxes.

Below are just a couple of photos from the day. Click on images for a closer view.

Linda organized my day with the Piedmont Quilters' Guild.

Linda's pastel painted fabrics were then stamped with dragonflies (one of her favorite images), hearts and words of kindness.

Mary Jo, who minored in art in college, created very innovative fabrics.

A beige linen-like fabric Mary Jo said she never liked was transformed with a wash of red paint before being stamped with delicate flower outlines and circles. Plans for a surface-designed jacket are underway.

More of Mary Jo's fabrics.

Connie had already packed her wonderful fabrics away, but stayed
to help gather my quilts together.

The workshop was held in the huge classroom at Randy's Quilt Shop. We all practiced a little retail therapy. And every time I stepped into the shop, I ran into another person I knew. Fun! Quilters share a common bond and are friends forever.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Last Two Pieces

March Study - final orientation.

April Study with borders added.
This quilt really is nice and square. I just
didn't do a very good job photographing it!

Amazing what a good night's sleep makes, isn't it? This morning I was able to make decisions about the orientation of my last two pieces and add borders to my April study. Both are pictured above.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Tutti Frutti - April Study One

Which orientation to use?

Version #1 - the original orientation.

Version 2 - a 180 degree flip.

Version 3

And the last choice.

This morning's studio time will be spent on completing Tutti Frutti. I created the center yesterday and got as far as the robbin's egg blue narrow border before indecision set in. The outer coral/red fabrics are being auditioned.

The last three studies I've done have been very structured and traditional - a departure from my usual wacky piecing. Maybe that's why I'm struggling with their completion.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mother's Quilt - Finished At Last!

Mother's quilt shown on the bed which once belonged to my parents.

After a very long delay, Mother's quilt is finished! I am relieved and yet sad. Mother was making this for herself but never got to use it. But I know my sister Sue will treasure it, as 15 of the blocks were by Mother's hands.

It took me a while to figure out how to get borders onto the quilt itself, as it was already quilted using the quilt-as-you-go technique. I finally decided to make the 18" borders separately with a sew and flip method, then stitch them to the quilt one at a time. Mitering was impossible, so the sewing order was sides first, then the top and bottom.

Working on such a large and heavy queen-size quilt was extremely difficult physically, especially in my very inadequate studio set-up. The binding was done by hand over about eight hours of watching basketball.

Sue has waited a very long time for this quilt. I'm anxious for her to have it.