Lockheed Constellation: Queen of the Skies

TWA hangar with jets and propeller aircraft–the beginning of the “jet age”.

The “famous, fabulous aircraft” I asked you to identify at bottom left was tricky because, in this photo, you could only see the nose and arc of the fuselage of this dolphin-shaped plane! If you had been able to see the entire aircraft with the sensuously curved fuselage, superb streamlining, four huge propeller engines on the wings, and the distinctive triple-tail, you would have no doubt that it was a Lockheed Constellation, for two decades the Queen of the Skies!

The Lockheed Constellation is instantly recognizable for its triple-tail design, dolphin fuselage and four 18-cylinder Wright radial engines. Many people consider the “Connie” the most beautiful airliner of all time. There’s no question the Constellation ruled the skies in the 1940s and 1950s with a top speed of 375 mph and a transcontinental range of more than 3,000 miles. Input for the design came directly from TWA principal shareholder Howard Hughes, who personally set speed records in the airplane. See Hughes in this historic, two minute trailer made when the Constellation broke new speed records flying coast to coast in 1944.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyaMTQ2ytWo

The “Connie” was typically described in well-earned superlatives. With the Super G model of the Connie, TWA was able to offer the first non-stop Los Angeles to New York flights. TWA transatlantic service started on February 6, 1946 with a New York-Paris flight in a Constellation.

airborne Connie

The Constellation series was the first pressurized-cabin civil airliner series to go into widespread use. Built between 1943 and 1958 at Burbank, California. Lockheed built 856 planes in numerous models—all with the same triple-tail design and dolphin-shaped fuselage. Its pressurized cabin enabled large numbers of commercial passengers to fly well above most bad weather for the first time, thus significantly improving the general safety and ease of air travel. During WW II, Constellations were used as troop transports. Later three Constellations served as the presidential aircraft for Dwight D. Eisenhower.

This “air hostess” is in front of a Connie–can you see the unique three fins behind her head? Note the unusual cutout TWA logo on the shoulder of her uniform. This understated, tailored uniform is my favorite! More about this cutout style later.

For almost 22 years the Connie served as the backbone of TWA’s long haul aircraft fleet! A grand total of 156 different Constellations were used, making TWA the largest civilian user ever! TWA’s last passenger flight in the Constellation took place April 1967. For long range operations, the Super G (1954) model of the Constellation could be fitted with extra wingtip tanks increasing the fuel capacity by two-thirds more than the original “Connie” models. The Super G was a popular choice among the airlines with 42 being flown by domestic carriers and 59 by foreign airlines.

TWA Constellation: note the wing tips of the Super G model are equipped with the extra fuel tanks for long haul flights. Quite a picture!

TWA Constellation ad probably late 1940s



My Connie flying time was limited
to our trainee “observation flight” taken in April, 1969. We trainees boarded our “observation flight”, taking off from the downtown airport and circling around the skyline of the city and then the fields of Missouri. This was only my fourth airplane flight. Luckily no one became air sick! Unfortunately, we were never had the opportunity to be trained on the safety features of the Constellation.

The three aircraft I do know intimately are the Douglas DC 9, the Boeing 707 and the Boeing 727 and the stretch 727. Those tiny galleys, flimsy jump seats for us, and the long narrow aisles feel like a second home. TWA awarded each flight attendant a “million mile” pin to wear with our uniforms after three years of flying. My 1985, I’d flown at least five million miles, primarily on these three aircraft.

My flying partners, the designation we used to describe our flight attendant co-workers, were generally strong, assertive women. We had to be ready to adapt to emergencies, large and small. Dealing with harried travelers is not an easy job. Our expected flight schedules were often interrupted by “non-routine” events caused by weather, crew shortages, or poor planning on TWA’s part.

1968 TWA flight attendant ad


Yet our employer continued to portray us as “flighty girls” as in this ad! In my eyes, this ad is disrespectful of all the capable women who worked as flight attendants wearing the proscribed uniforms demanded by TWA. Now, it seemed, the PR department had decided to switch to a “girlish” image. Both were images manufactured by the corporation to serve their purposes.

This is the interior of a Constellation portrayed in an ad by Lockheed, circa 1950

I liked working with women in an atmosphere of camaraderie! I liked being able to set my own work schedule! After TWA published their monthly schedule, we would bid according to seniority, on which group of monthly flights we would prefer. We could even chose to “buddy bid” with a friend to work that month on the same group of flights together.

The Connie’s demise came only with the arrival of the Boeing 707 and the Jet Age. I began my career at the dawn of that jet age. The era of the propliner (large, propeller-driven airliners) was going the way of the ocean liner for overseas travel. By 1959 Boeing 707s cut travel time in half and piston-powered airliners quickly became obsolete. Lockheed returned to the drawing board, while Boeing aircraft reigned for a awhile. Remember, too, that the other “Queen of the Skies”, Amelia Earhart, chose the Lockheed “Electra” as her reliable flying partner in all her adventures. Lockheed built the Constellation to fly longer distance than any other aircraft of the era. The distinctive profile of the Constellation remains a legend.

Ask you relatives and friends for stories of their memories or experiences of the Constellation. Then share them with me and I will post them here.

Many thanks to all the volunteers who operate the TWA Museum website for providing much of the rich history I’ve described!
You can visit the TWA Museum in Kansas City MO.
Former employees of TWA, including a number of women I flew with, have created this non-profit museum. The TWA museum occupies the building at 10 Richards Road at the downtown airport–this was TWA’s 1931 headquarters. No longer an upscale headquarters building in 1968, this address was the same spot where I had my “special interview” in the fall of 1968.
Check the website: http://www.twamuseum.com/
“The mission of the TWA Museum is to provide information to the public emphasizing the story, history and importance of the major role TWA played in pioneering commercial aviation. From the birth of airmail to the inception of passenger air travel, to the post-WW II era of global route expansion, TWA led the way for 75 years.”

Search the wide variety of TWA aircraft–now you can find the Constellation, right? Hint, look for the three upright fins on the tail.

Note the extra fuel tanks on the wing tip of this Super Constellation

For further viewing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyaMTQ2ytWo
Enjoy this less than 2 minute historic trailer made when a Constellation broke new speed records flying coast to coast in 1944. With WW II the Constellations are pressed into service by the US government. After the war, TWA bought a fleet of Connies!

Invest 10 minutes in the video/story of a rescued Connie: https://youtu.be/xRwSKmFoFa8“>

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Glamour is Only the Beginning….

Boeing 707


“Glamour: an attractive or exciting quality that makes certain people or things seem appealing, especially in a mysterious or magical way. Glamour can be an exciting and often illusory, romantic attractiveness.” Yes, there is a magical, attractive quality to an airship flying high above the azure sea!

Onboard those airships, the “safety directors”, also known as flight attendants, have long been seen as part of the glamour, the magic of flying. Here is my true story of flying five million miles (or sixteen years) as a flight attendant for Trans World Airlines from 1969 to 1985. We were trained in Kansas City, MO then the headquarters of TWA. Eighteen months into my flying career, we received this casual, but official, letter that we could be bombing targets. Did TWA offer us “hazardous duty” pay? Not hardly!

Type written letter to all MKC hostesses in September, 1970. MKC was the airline code for Kansas City’s early downtown airport. Hostess was the job designation for flight attendants used by TWA at that time.

“Be a Woman of the World” was the headline on the brochure I requested from TWA in 1968 with this image reinforcing the message. The photo was a departure from the past: bright colors, short skirts, long hair and a woman of color! Wow, could this be me? Could I be paid to fly around the world? I had graduated from college in 1967 and accepted an entry-level job with the federal government. However, on-going job freezes there found me working as a substitute teacher and living at home with my parents.

TWA flight attendants-late 1960s uniforms by Dalton

My hometown, Miami Springs, Florida, as part of the Greater Miami area, was an airline boom town! We lived close to Miami International Airport where Pan American, Eastern and National Airlines all had headquarters. I had considered the possibility of flying in the past, but at 5′ 10 1/2″ I was considered too tall to be hired by any of those airlines. Much more about this later!
The classic tailored uniforms of earlier decades were missing. My mind’s eye saw this 1958 cover from LIFE magazine.

1958 Life magazine cover of air hostesses

The camaraderie of the group in this group appealed to me as a young woman.

I started thinking about all this lately because I brought my orange striped hat, dress and jacket uniform items to my trunk show at Cuttin’ Up last month. I found my internet search about flight attendants, our public image and our varying uniforms enlightening. In my eyes, it seems there is a certain “dignity” lacking in some of the later corporate efforts to manipulate that portrayal of women workers.

When I was hired in late 1968 and began flying in March 1969, I could not have known that in 1971 my own image would be part of TWA’s marketing campaign and ads.

TWA ads from 1971 with new uniforms by designer Valentino modeled by Paula Mariedaughter second from right.

This TWA poster from the late 1960s illustrates the jaunty, mod mood of that era.


This late 1960s ad features the Dalton premium wool winter uniforms we wore until summer arrived. In summer we were wore a different set of really ugly polyester dresses.!

In 1971 I was one of the three flight attendants to model our new Valentino designer uniforms at each of the seven domicile cities. I was thrilled by the plum version of the uniform. We had choices of the plum, chocolate brown or a tan color. Best of all, we now had the option to wear trousers! No more summer uniforms and winter uniforms–these polyester uniforms would be worn year round. No required girdles or white gloves or hats!

My real education began after college graduation! Living as a woman worker for a large corporation and as a feminist as the women’s liberation movement was growing, enriched my life in ways it is hard to catalogue. I’m going to write about the highlights and some of the tangents of living the “glamorous” life of a TWA flight attendant/safety director. Perhaps I can dispel some of the common illusions. I’m looking forward to sharing my story with friends!

TWA hangar with propeller aircraft–prior to the beginning of the “jet age”. For the discerning eye: please note the “dolphin-shaped” aircraft in the lower left of the photo. Are you familiar with this famous, fabulous aircraft?. Answer next week!

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Lurking Creativity

Falling water, rushing water lures us into paying attention. Foam, sparkling droplets, abundance……


“Art is born in attention. Its midwife is detail. Art may seem to involve broad strokes, grand schemes, great plans. But it is the attention to detail that stays with us; the singular image is what haunts us and becomes art.”
“A mystery draws us in, leads us on, lures us.”
Julia Cameron The Artist’s Way 1992 p. 21

I rarely call myself an artist. I am quite happy to call myself a “dedicated quilter”. I’m passionate about creativity in its many forms. I believe we each possess a lurking creativity ready to emerge with encouragement. Yesterday I explored a thrift shop before I taught Circle Play 101 at Cuttin’ Up. Browsing, or perhaps I should call it dowsing, I rediscovered the Julia Cameron book The Artist’s Way. Cameron boldly encourages “attention to detail” even as many of us who teach quilting or practice quilting know how all those details add up to an integrated whole–whether it be a piece of writing, a sketch, a drawing or a quilt!

Or photography! Driving along our river road heading home after the heavy rains of last week, I stopped to admire this seasonal waterway. Streaming down the mountainside, this flow moves on to Beaver Lake and eventually to the Mississippi River then the Gulf of Mexico. I was returning from a brief errand, but I did not let this magnificent sight become a blur along the road. I paid attention–and even recorded the sight.

Flowing to the ocean, this rain water is rushing to its destination to then be recycled as clouds that will return more water to this spot.

The first picture captures more details–which do you prefer? There is no right answer–only a preference on your part. Perhaps you like both. Perhaps you are annoyed to see two similar pictures.

Our segment of the White River usually flows a calm mineral green that soothes me. Here in the background you can see the muddy, churning waters.


Wet and slippery, large rocks dominate this bluff overlooking the river. These boulders have slid down from the higher bluff as the river has undercut the bank. I’ve passed this spot several times a week for thirty years. Sometimes we’ve seen a swooping Kingfisher bird and enjoyed its raucous call. Some winters we regularly see Bald Eagles perched above the river looking for a meal. Usually we are looking for activity but drive by without stopping. Today these ancient rocks are dressed in emerald green mosses contrasting with the wet leaves and the lighter lichens drawing my gaze.. and camera. Obviously I stopped to admire the ordinary.

Two trees, two boulders leaning together.

This dramatic pairing of leaning boulders always makes me wonder how the co-joined arrangement happened.

Glowing sunset seen in the Harp’s parking lot in Elkins, AR as I returned home after that Saturday class.

Cameron declares that detail is the midwife to art. This is a clue about how we can nurture our own creativity. By being present in our lived lives and acknowledging our surroundings–especially the natural world–we can thrive.

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Are there “Magic Rules” in Quilting?

Jean Ray Laury (1928-2011), a visionary quilter published her first book Applique Stitchery in 1966 followed by Quilts & Coverlets, A Contemporary Approach in 1970.


Jean Ray Laury offered this advice, “Avoid looking for magic rules to rely on–you can only learn by working, and your mistakes have as much to offer as your successes. There are no rules, no rights, no wrongs….” Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine (QNM) October, 1994 p. 45

This talented woman is widely acknowledged as a leader of the quilt revival that started in the 1960s. Her wit and wisdom, as well as her unlimited creative energy caught my attention. Jean Ray Laury’s quilts with a feminist message–especially about women’ lives–have inspired some of my own quilting adventures. Her quilt named “Barefoot and Pregnant or Senator van Dalsem” is a 1987 piece which illustrates the sexist comments by an Arkansas senator. This quilt was selected as one of the top 100 quilts of the 20th century. For a quick introduction, visit: https://journalstar.com/entertainment/arts-and-culture/visual/l-kent-wolgamott-jean-ray-laury-retrospective-of-influential-quiltmaker/article_71d919ec-0ad2-5d27-b683-c1d41cf3246e.html

Starfire: one of my favorite of her quilts!

“Do Your Own Thing” is easier said than done! As women and as quilters we often encounter rules and admonishments to “do it the right way”. Setting aside time to experiment and to play is one way to begin to know what really thrills YOU! Finding the time for ourselves may not be easy, but continued interruptions do interfere with creativity.

Exposing yourself to a variety of quilts is a valid way to “educate your eye”. You can see how other quilters have solved particular problems. You may notice new color or fabric combinations that really appeal to you. Taking classes is a time-honored way to expand your skills. However, as Laury suggests, “you can only learn by working”! Make it a small, medium or large quilt–but make it your own!

Final Post of Photos from my Trunk Show at Cuttin’ Up, January 18th

Blue Poppies, my original design, is made of simple squares (cut 5″), and began when I fell in love with two particular fabrics. (If you are curious–I was drawn to the bright blue and the floral print on both sides of the center diagonal.) I had to invent something to feature these two as “central characters”. Of course, without a “supporting cast” it would be a boring quilt. This was my challenge: create a grouping that would be visually interesting and even offer a few surprises when one got close. I cut squares, then shifted them around on my design wall. I soon realized I needed those dramatic nine patch blocks for some “drama” on my stage. Note how the nine patches do extend into the border.

Blue Poppies grow in a field of greens and grays with a dramatic nine patch for visual interest.

Liliana uses a “strippy” format to feature this fabulous fabric! The bold calla lilies are framed by the strips of ombre fabric–adding the calm of the flowing color changes to the busy curved flower shapes. I did hand quilt this quilt because I did not think machine quilting would enhance this quilt.

Taupe quilt: Silver Taupe

Silver Taupe is my first in a series of taupe-themed quilts. I discovered this pattern in a vintage QNM article about working with these intriguing low-contrast fabrics often associated with some Japanese textiles. This first “taupe adventure” led to three more taupe quilts of different patterns. The ombre border draws its share of attention! All the blocks in the body of the quilt are set-on-point which emphasizes the diagonal lines of the block. By contrast, each corner of the border showcases three of the same blocks in a straight set. This idea grew from necessity–I did not have enough of the ombre fabric to cover those long borders. We learn as we go!

Gold Dust features the traditional Wagon Wheel block sewn with bright contemporary fabrics. Blocks:The lighter blocks along the diagonal draw the eye at first. The strong contrast in value (light and dark) captures attention. Yet, other features demand their own notice. Some blocks are fade-out blocks blending into the background. Other blocks have blades that offer sharp contrast within the block itself. Border: Study the unconventional border. I cut the border blocks in the same hexagon shape as the pieced blocks using a darker fabric in the lower section to contrast with the blocks in the upper section. I actually ran out of the lighter border fabric and had to seek out a similar fabric to play the same role. I like it even better this way. Binding: The blue batik binding adds the last note to pull together the theme of copper colors highlighted with blue–and a few other zingers.

Thank you for your willingness to explore, with me, my passion for creating with fabric. If you would like to take my two session class Circle Play 101 based on the book by Reynola Pakusich called Circle Play: Simple Designs for Fabulous Fabrics call Cuttin’ Up at 479-846-2611. Two sessions: February 8 and 15 from 1-4:00 at Cuttin’ Up. Book included in the $50 class fee. See you next Saturday!

“Mix(It Up #2 Black & Gold” is one example of a quilt I designed after reading Circle Play. This photo was taken before I finished quilting and binding it. Note the Statue of Liberty fabric in one of the lower blocks. I bought several of these bandanas printed with Her image during the centennial celebration in 1986. Yes, my passion for fabric precedes my start as a quilter in 1994!

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January: The Trunk Was Full!

I’ve been a quilter for almost twenty-six years! Prior to that I was merely a wannabe quilter with a dream of having the time and energy to make quilts. I am a life-long fabric lover, as was my mother. Yes, I do believe it is in my genes. That has not changed. I’ve long been a collector who readily gathers things to “feather my nest”. My house is full to the brim of baskets, plants, shells, fossils, doilies, cork, bark or glass vases, pictures, folk art and more.

What has altered? What has changed since I began quilting, is my own increasing quilt portfolio. I enjoyed reading this definition of portfolio: “a portfolio usually represents a portable showcase of your talents”.

Quilts are portable, to some extent, but as my portfolio increases moving the collection requires muscle and roomy transportation. My truck (our 2009 Honda Ridgeline) was quite full last week for the trunk show at Cuttin’ Up. Sharing my quilts and the lessons or challenges I experienced with each quilt is always a journey for me too. I get to see old favorites. Sometimes I relearn a lesson!

“Fire Pink” grew from my desire to feature the shimmering red batik. Note how I extended that red diagonal into the border at times. To satisfy my own eye, I reduced the size of the block and the sashing as presented in the original pattern. I had sewn two blocks and realized they seemed too “chunky”. Those blocks now appear on the back of the quilt as a reminder to evaluate each step of the way.

“Paisley Lily” was a pattern that intrigued me–found in a magazine. I sewed all nine blocks with the consistent light background, but found it quite boring. I replaced that center block with this one. It is the exact same block–only colored with lights and darks differently! Yes, value does the work!

“Spring Beauty” features a vibrant panel of an Iris flower. I broke up the panel by inserting the strips of charteuse dupioni silk from a thrift store gown I’d found. The wide asymmetrical border around the iris is a “coping strip” to make it fit the surrounding blocks I wanted to use. The blocks were inspired by a quilt made by Adele A. using the same color range of fabrics. Not until I found this panel did I find a way to highlight the blocks I’d pieced two years earlier! The machine quilting I did on the iris and the background adds interest and texture.

“My Deer-Proof Day Lily” is the companion piece of panel to “Spring Beauty” (above).
The block called North Wind or Corn and Beans is the same block use in Spring Beauty–just different color combinations. Note how effective the bit of plaid is here. One quilt leads to another–this is how a “quilt series” begins!

“May Day Baskets” was inspired by a red & blue string-pieced wallhanging I spotted at a flea market in the late 1990’s. At the time there was a lot of interest in “low-volume” quilts meaning minimal contrast throughout. I pieced the baskets on a foundation and appliqued the handles, then went to my stash for fabric for the setting triangles and the borders I chose to create. My goal was to turn the center square into a rectangle via interesting borders–a trick I learned from studying antique quilts, especially lone star quilts.

“15 Years of Applique” was a hand work project I carried to meetings for about fifteen years. The block is Tobacco Leaf. Some of the blocks display a strong contrast, some are “fade-out” blocks. The use of both helps to keep the viewer’s eye moving. With the thirty-three blocks set on-point and then joined together with the narrow silk sashing it became a large quilt. The tiny squares of vibrant green at the corner of each block becomes what I call punctuation points. I’m especially pleased with the dark diagonal line of blocks and with the green stripe in the setting triangles that appears to weave behind the edge of the blocks. This was my original setting. Picking my favorite fabric from this “library” of fabrics would be difficult. I quilted all of these quilts on my vintage home sewing machine, a Bernina 930 from the 1980s.

Ten days ago at Cuttin’ Up, I had the opportunity to display an array of my quilts and talk about the various boulevards, avenues and alleys that my quilting journey has taken me. I mentioned some of the unexpected twists and turns as I wandered around the quilting world. I appreciate all of you who joined me–it would not have been the same without each of you! And thanks for these photos!

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Full House at Cuttin’ Up!


Sunshine on Saturday brought about thirty-six quilt enthusiasts to Cuttin’ Up to explore the contents of my “trunk” of quilts. I had packed almost forty medium-to-large quilts into three large roller-style suitcases. Twenty more smaller pieces were used to illustrate the four major categories of quilts: center medallion, block format, strippy format, and free form or improvisational style. Whole cloth quilts could be considered a fifth style, not often seen today.

For part of my introduction I appeared wearing the beret hat and the orange headscarf of the TWA flight attendant uniform we wore in 1969 as well as a Girl Scout-themed apron stitched by my mother in 1962–all to illustrate chapters of my life story.

After I opened the presentation with some of my life story, I showed my first quilt “Sentimental Morning Glories” completed in 1985 using the Garden Twist design from the 1890s. This quilt features white and lavender morning glories with lots of white accents on a black background. This fabric had served me well as sheets, but as only 50% cotton, I found I could not continue sleeping on them. I still loved the fabric. I was a new quilter on a budget who decided to use what I had on hand. I’m quite fond of this first project (not pictured).
Since I had no photos to share here, on Sunday morning, I put out a call to several women at yesterday’s trunk show asking for any photos they would like to share with me. It’s now Sunday evening. I’m reliving yesterday’s fun through those pictures! I’ve now received thirty-eight pictures! It’s so fun to see what was happening from the viewer’s point of view. However, I’m out of energy tonight. I will post many photos next week. As a bonus, I am sending the full handout I prepared for all who attended yesterday’s trunk show. If you missed it, here are some of my inspirational guidelines central to my thinking when I make my quilts.

Several generous women (you know who you are) provided these photos of our quilt-time together.

In 1969, when I started flying, TWA had moved to the “non-uniform look” of bright colors. We each had a choice of wearing the orange, green or yellow version of these wool winter uniforms. Our summer uniforms were totally different and made of polyester! We wore orange pumps, carried a large orange handbag with the winter uniforms. Our oversize orange coats had a zip-out lining to add for winter weather. Our white Samsonite luggage was the only subdued element in our outfits.

One of the series of four of my quilts featuring the lovely taupe family of fabrics especially ones by Daiwabo.

I rescued this vintage wool crewel piece from a thrift shop, then added my own creativity. Note the non matching borders.

Colorful selvages paired with like-minded fabrics composed these foundation-pieced blocks into a new whole inscribed with lots of information about what contemporary fabrics are readily available, making it an archive of fabrics!

Guild Challenge: Take a photo and then make a quilt from that photo. I photographed this brilliant Stellar’s Jay high in the mountains of Colorado. Can you see the glass beads I used to imitate ice crystals?

My Passion for Playing with Fabric: Exploring the Options
Trunk Show by Paula Mariedaughter at Cuttin’ Up Quilt Studio and More January 18, 2020

“In its simplest form a quilt is just some fabric and a little bit of thread. It’s up to you to decide how to put it together.” YLI thread advertisement in QNM, March 2000

“Color gets the credit and value does the work.” unknown quilt designer

“Make visual decisions visually.” Lorraine Torrence, quilt designer, teacher

“Please yourself and at least one person will be well-satisfied.” paraphrased Irish proverb

“Compositions matter. Artfully arranged, anything can become a thing of beauty.” designer Barbara Barry

“Life for a quilt comes through the play of one element against another. Color, shape, value & texture all play a part in the visual impact.” Paula Mariedaughter

“Creativity is usually regarded as an individual attribute, but it depends on opportunities for expression and a receptive audience.” Margaret Cruickshank in Learning To Be Old

“Respect your gift. Not everyone can or wants to make a quilt. If your gift is to do so, then by all means make quilts.” Betty White in QNM August 2013

“The viewer’s eye will automatically go to the area of your quilt with the greatest contrast.” Irene Barry QNM Jan 2009

“Repetition makes things go together.” Roberta Horton in The Fabric Makes the Quilt

“Try adding black if you are stuck on choosing colors.” Paula Mariedaughter

“To be surrounded by beautiful things has much influence on the human creature, to make beautiful things has more.” Charlotte Perkins Gilman, feminist author in Women and Economics, 1898

“A quilt cannot be hurried. Solutions come in their own good time. Take your time. Take risks. Have fun.” well-respected, contemporary quilt maker Nancy Crow, author of multiple books.

“Bite off more than you can chew, get into trouble, find interesting ways out. Relish ‘mistakes’. They are probably design presents in disguise.” Nancy Halpern, talented quilter in the contemporary quilt world

Explore the “My Way” quilts from the women of Gee’s Bend and their innovative ways of looking at fabric, design, and format which has produced work that is utterly original and stands with the finest abstract art in any tradition. http://www.soulsgrowndeep.org/gees-bend-quiltmakers

“Unfilled with pattern or design, negative space can be a powerful design element often seen in antique quilts as well as contemporary quilts.” Paula Mariedaughter

“The biggest mistake in quiltmaking is judging your work too harshly” Kristin Miller, The Careless Quilter

“The more you play, the more fun you will have. Every quilt that gets finished is a miracle.” Paula
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What’s Hiding in the Trunk?

Paula speaking at the 2013 Quilt Congress in Russelleville, AR.

A quilter’s trunk show can be full of surprises and unexpected connections. In “My Passion for Playing with Fabrics: Exploring the Options” I’ll display an array of my quilts and talk about the various boulevards, avenues and alleys that my quilting journey has taken me. There are unexpected twists and turns as I’ve wandered around the quilting world.

Every trunk show offers you a chance to view another quilter’s workshop. Hopefully you’ll gather information and possibly inspiration from all you see. A highlight for me of any trunk show, is the chance to ask questions and to mingle ideas with other quilters. Additionally, on Saturday, January 18th, you will have a chance to explore Cuttin’ Up for yourself.

Sarea is searching for inspiration on how to use her Wonder Woman panel.

Bonnie said they settled on the name for the shop because both her daughters are always “cuttin’ up”. When I visited recently, Sarea showed me this favorite fabric, exhibiting that playful attitude her mother mentioned before. Yet, these women have a serious commitment to creating a long-lived quilt shop. We can see this as we look around the shop and view the intense creative energy it took to transform two weary spaces into this bright, cheerful studio for quilters.

This doorway did not exist until the Cuttin’ Up crew made it appear.

Sarea is standing next to the brick wall that divided the two shops before sledge hammers and other delicate tools created a large opening. Harmony salvaged the 100 year old oak beam from a local barn to become the supports you see surrounding the doorway.

I’m always attracted to creative, quirky elements that surprise the viewer, whether in a quilt or in this delightful quit shop. The bathroom offered two such surprises. A vintage treadle sewing machine cabinet now houses the farmhouse sink to carry the sewing theme into this room too. Another wall was left with some of the brick exposed and now holds galvanized metal bins used to corral odds and ends.

When you arrive at Cuttin’ Up on Saturday you’ll find parking in front or in the lot behind the shop. I hope you will view the front of the shop because you will appreciate the transformation most from that view. Bonnie, Harmony and Sarea provided me with a historical photo from the 1900s and then a photo taken as they started the extensive renovations last summer.

Harmony, Sarea, and Bonnie had a vision for this building, despite the garish yellow and purple painted facade done by previous tenants. With dedicated enthusiasm, they enlisted the efforts of family and friends to transform the space in a matter of a few months into a vibrant quilt shop and a gathering place for creative sewers. Come join the fun!

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Adventures at the New Quilt Shop: Cuttin’ Up

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Three creative women with a dream have created Cuttin’ Up Quilt Studio & More located in downtown Prairie Grove, AR. Bonnie Clark and her two daughters Harmony Strode and Sarea Birmingham have enhanced this downtown street with a renovated building and beautiful entrance to their shop.

Cuttin’Up store front at the Grand opening on October 4, 2019. Even the windows have stitching around the edge!

On a bright June day last year Sarea and Harmony confronted their mother, Bonnie, with the grand idea of opening a multi-purpose quilt shop with additional services offered by hairdesser, Harmony, and massage therapist, Sarea. Bonnie was surprised and delighted. By mid July they had purchased two adjacent buildings located on Buchanan, the main business street in Prairie Grove.
All three women enlisted the aid of extended family and friends to help with the renovation. Lots of “sweat equity” transformed the former grocery into the current bright space.

Browse this corner filled with reproduction fabrics from the 1930’s–a favorite of Sarea.


The three women consider a goal of their shop to be “bridging the gap between the generations” offering fabrics, patterns and tools to please quilters and sewers, whether new or experienced. From batiks to solids to panels and precut collections, the shopper has lots to choose from.

From the first time I visited, I was taken with the building and all they have done to transform the space! The vintage elements which fill every nook made me feel at home. I admired the eye, or rather the three sets of eyes that pulled this collage of elements together. During that visit my quilter friends and I visited with the owners about their adventure in creating this joint project. We got a grand tour of the facility including the back room which is a project still in progress. The classroom is large and bright. The hair salon and the massage facility were both inviting.

Two long arm quilting machines–one available for use by you.

After seeing the long arm quilting machine they use to quilt for the public, we learned of their plans to add a second long arm quilting machine to allow them to rent it out to those who want to quilt their quilts. Bonnie, Harmony, and Sarea are now offering quilt classes and other special events like the Pizza Nights held the first Friday of the month. In our later conversations, we came up with the idea of my doing the free trunk show in January and then a two session class in February.

At this mid-point, you can see the front half of the shop. Draped on the cutting table is my quilt “Indigo Play” the third in my “Mix it Up” series based on the book Circle Play.

Join us at Cuttin’ Up!
“My Passion for Creating with Fabric: Exploring the Options” is the title of my free trunk show at 2:00 Saturday, January 18th. I’ll bring lots of quilt stands so most all the quilts will be visible for a length of time—not whisked away after a one minute glance. You will see early quilts and many of the newer ones of the “Mix It Up” series based on Circle Play. I’ll share some of my ideas about choosing fabrics and how to modify patterns to make them your own.

You’ll have a chance to roam the shop and to see for yourself how these creative women have manifested their dream of “something different”. You will also have the chance to meet and talk to Sarea, Bonnie, and Harmony.

Sisters: Harmony, on the left and Sarea, on the right–Bonnie was not around the day I took these photos.

Contact information for Cuttin’ Up Quilt Studio & More
https://www.cuttinupquiltstudio.com/
111 East Buchanan Street
Prairie Grove, AR 72753
Phone: 479-846-2611
Email: cqsm19@gmail.com
Hours: Thursday & Friday 10-6:00
Saturday 10-5:00

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Reflective Surfaces….

Last week I mentioned the use of “reflective surfaces” to add interest to a photograph–that seems a rather obvious action when using a camera. How do we add “reflective surfaces” to our quilts? There are multiple answers with complex variations! Let’s explore some of the the possibilities.

Silk fibers have a natural sheen. Let’s start with my 2015 quilt “Downward Mobility”, 32″ x 32″, which began as a “modern nine-patch” challenge. All these silk fabrics are recycled from thrift shop garments. Notice how the quilting is clearly defined on the pale green. The white silk is dupioni silk which does not have the same reflective sheen as most other silk, but it is washable.

I discovered the second quilt at a flea market. I was drawn to the vivid colors of the silk and the fine hand quilting on this small wall hanging. I’ve named this quilt “Color Study”. The bright colors set against the black background make each square glow like a jewel. However, if you squint, you will see that the lightest rectangle found in the lower right section glows. Can you see the “reflective surface” here? Yes, the lightest section of your quilt will draw the eye–especially if there is a high contrast with the surrounding area!

The value of “value”! Lights stand out, darks recede.
This simple observation has taken me years to really comprehend! “Value” refers to the lightness of darkness of a particular fabric or group of fabrics. The tricky thing about that basic definition is the changing reality of how one pairs that fabric. Its value is strongly influenced by its surroundings! More on this later. Let’s focus on the observation that light areas of your quilt will become a reflective surface and stand out!

“Journey to the New Normal”, 42″ x 42″, 2016


In “Journey to the New Normal” our eye is quickly drawn tho the lighter paths created with the split nine-patch blocks I made. Yes, the strong, rich colors grab their share of attention, but without that strong contrast of the light paths the vivid colors would blend together. This is my original design for the challenge I initiated at the Modern Guild in 2016. Our challenge was this phrase, “Too precious to cut, but we will!” Each of the outer border fabrics was precious–so glad they worked together in this exploration. By modifying the basic construction of the split nine patch block I was able to turn the triangle of that block into the squares that punctuate each block.


“Windfall”, another of my quilts from 2016, resulted from a slightly modified pattern from talented teacher Sujata Shah. You can readily see how the lightest “blades” of this “Windmill” pattern keep your eye moving across the surface of the quit challenging you to find the rhythmn. The color theme is loosely a blue, purple and white grouping. I was not pleased with the color combinations until I added the dashes of deep red. Note that the lights appear in both the blades (foreground) and in the background areas making the rhythm more unpredictable, yet still interesting. 46″ x 58″

Silver Taupe (left) and Copper Rose are part of the series of five quilts I made in 2015 exploring the delight of playing with these low-volume taupe fabrics. Working extensively with medium-range values (the entire family of taupe fabrics), made it obvious how essential the clear light fabrics were to creating any pattern capable of drawing the eye! In Silver Taupe the ombre fabrics of the border demand attention as the value moves from lights to darks in an asymmetrical pattern. You can see how in Copper Rose (right) the light squares draw your eye strategically down each of the diagonal lines from upper right to lower left.

Pumpkin Treat (right) depends on small dashes of white in the plaid background and in the white yarn of the crocheted squares. The vibrant white appears as a reflective surface amid all the deep dark colors. This small wall hanging is composed of a variety of thrift shop finds including the tiny crochet “granny squares” similar to those my mother would make from her leftover yarn. Mother also made delightful Halloween costumes for us, so this quilt is one more tribute to her!

“Color gets the credit, value does the work!”
The unknown quilter who first used this quip was a wise quilter! Life for a quilt comes through the play of one element against another. Color, shape, value, and texture all play a part in the visual impact. Creative use of light is an essential tool for every quilter. The more we play around with the elements, the more fun we can have!

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Artfully Arranged? Compositions?

“Compositions matter. Artfully arranged anything can become a thing of beauty.” Years ago I discovered this quote from the talented designer Barbara Barry in House Beautiful, January 2013. She put into words my own lifelong interest in everyday living. Our surroundings influence us on many levels. Composition just refers to how something is arranged. For example, often we carefully set up a photo to include what we want. We may choose to exclude unsightly overhead wires from our picture–that is composition! Quilts can be seen as fabric compositions too. You can tell a lot about a person by what she surrounds herself with and how she arranges her surroundings. Here is a brief tour of my surroundings. This photo of our mantel needs some explanation.


As you look in the mirror in the foreground, you see the row of bird’s nests under glass arranged on the mantel. In the reflection, the double shades of the light located over the couch catch your eye. This is the middle ground. In the background the antique green enamel breadbox and all the dishes are located twenty feet across from the mirror. That kitchen area extends along the back wall of the 20′ x 40′ house Jeanne and I built in 1988. There is a lot of history stuffed into this photo!


I imported this 100 year old leaded glass window from Kansas City, MO where I’d salvaged it from a thrift store in the 1980s. I was drawn to the unusual heart shaped glass pieces and the series of moon shapes along the top.

All three items in front of the window are leftover decorations from a women’s event we organized last fall. The ornamental kale are from a local nursery. The pumpkin was a volunteer appearing on our compost pile. Every time I approach our deck, I am please to see this simple arrangement. I know that the terracotta pots contribute to my admiration of the grouping since I’m always drawn to terracotta.


“Mix and Match” was a phrase I first heard in junior high school (1950s) as related to our girls’ wardrobe planning. Ever since I’ve used this concept to surround myself with things I like–some match, but most mix-it-up to please my own eye! Here I’ve assembled favorite plants, terracotta pots, seashells. The centerpiece of this grouping is a collection of turquoise Japanese fishing floats corralled in a wire basket. These wondrous glass globes have traveled the sea on their own and then proceeded overland to me as a gift from a dear friend now deceased. Once they were used in Japan as buoys to keep fishing nets afloat.

Our forty acre homestead was owned previously by a group of “hippies” who built a tree house overlooking the creek we call Orchid Creek. The outdoor kitchen, small workshed and the tree house were disintegrating when I bought Cedar Hill in 1982. Left behind in the shed was this ancient Singer cast iron sewing machine. Several years ago I dragged it up hill to our house to become yard art for this avid sewer! Daffodils and ferns surround it in the spring. I see it from my 9′ tall windows every day and never fail to admire the curves and the sturdy frame.

Artfully Arranged. My original quilt pattern “Diagonal Dance” is a carefully composed group of fabrics selected to become a community of fabrics meant to be together. This pattern is like a giant puzzle that will fit together, but only you can decide what colors, what fabrics, what focus should be placed in each spot! The actual sewing is not difficult. Composition is what makes each quilt sewn with this pattern carry a unique visual personality.

Bonus question. In observing the first four photographs, some taken indoors and some outdoors, did you notice that they all have one aspect in common? Each photo contains a reflective surface–one quite effective way to keep the viewer’s eye engaged.

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