Thursday, December 25, 2008

Phenomenal Woman (Christmas Present #2)

Well, last night while I was working on labels, the right name for this piece hit me... Phenomenal Woman. Once I said it, I new all the other names were wrong.

It hit me, just as my sister did when she opened her present today. She was so full of joy, she just hit me across the arm (a tap really, one of those spontaneous reactions). It was great to see. Unfortunately though, it meant I didn't get a photo of her reaction, or of her opening the box. Hopefully someone else in the family did.

Anyway, here she is, all ready to go..... I am also including a few close up shots, as I kept coming back to my friends in blog land for help on how to quilt it. Thanks for the suggestions.....

Full wallhanging (30 1/2" x 37 1/2"):
Her left shoulder, all posed with attitude. As you can see, I finally decided to do a sort of free hand shape quilting on the arms, trying to give it a feeling of strength. I think it is easier to see in person, rather than in the photo.

Her neck was a little trickier, as I had to deal with the necessary movement in two different sections. So I tried to accent the long strong neck, with straight lines that curved at the neckline of her dress.

I knew what I was doing with her hair right away. I wanted to make it look like she had corn-rolls or braids. I used the feather stitch on my machine to create the rows of braids. I am really pleased with the results, as the quilting truly does look like braids and it gives the viewer a perspective on the tight braids coming from the scalp.

I kept up the feather stitch on the braids, which gave them the same texture as the rest of her hair.

Then in the background I used a free flowing loop, that creates motion throughout the piece. I had originally decided on using African symbols on the background, but I found them too angular in shape, which didn't give the effect I was looking for. So I ripped out the first pattern or two and went with this.

I still need to work on the mouth. I ripped out the original outline I had used in red, but haven't replaced it yet, as I ran out of time. So, I told my sister that I needed to take it back after the holidays, to make a few adjustments. She doesn't know I had planned on adding feathers around the neckline. But I couldn't find the right type in time, so I will have to hunt for them while on vacation the next week and a half.

Well, at least I know my sister was thrilled. I even got a hug, kiss and a smile, once she realized she had thanked me by hitting me. Well, what do you expect out of sisters!

Update: I forgot to give credit to the artist in my post. The image I adapted was from a print by Isabelle Vital.

Generation V: Six Generations of Valdes's (Christmas Present #1)

Here is the quilt I was making for my sister-in-law (my husband's sister) for Christmas. It starts with her grandparents and has six generations that end with her grandchildren. Unfortunately, she hasn't seen it yet, because she lost her husband yesterday (Christmas Eve) to pneumonia.

I will post a picture of the label later, as I forgot to take a photo before I wrapped it. The label has a key for the pictures, with everyone's name that is pictured in the quilt. I also left open spaces on the bottom of the quilt, just in case she has a few favorite pictures of her own, that she would like included. That is why I appliqued the photos blocks on, instead of piecing them in.

I hope she likes it.

UPDATE: 12/28/07
After the wake for my BIL, my husband suggested that we give the family their presents. The girls and grandchildren opened theirs and while my SIL really didn't want to, she set about ripping the paper. Her daughters, who knew what was in the box, stood up to get closer. I had folded the quilt so that the squares with her mother and father were on top. As she pushed back the tissue paper, she burst into tears, picked up the quilt and buried her face in it. I quess I now know that the photo transfer ink had indeed set completely, because she cried in the quilt for a few minutes.

The next day when we arrived back at the house from the funeral, family members gathered around, as my nieces had hung the quilt in the living room. I was in the kitchen warming food, so I didn't get to observe the reactions first hand, but my DH said everyone was amazed. Some kept asking, but how did she get the photos on fabric, others amazed at photos of their grandparents, aunts, uncles, neices and nephews, etc....

I am glad my husband suggested the idea. Thanks. Bob!

Merry Christmas

Just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas from the Valdes family, or as we are better known... the 4R's. Here is a picture from a little earlier today. Left to right: Raven (my daughter), Me, Robert (my husband), and Roberto (my son).

You can see a piece of a Nativity quilt I made years ago hanging over the mantle. It is made using the stain glass method, with the pre-made bias iron on strips.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Traditions

One of my most cherished Christmas traditions, is the making of Pastelles. What are Pastelles? It is a Puerto Rican dish made mostly of pork, green banana's, and a variety of root vegetables and herbs. While there are many variations, these stables have been used for generations.

My earliest Patelle memory is of my paternal grandmother, Pura. As petite as she was, Pura was a strong force in the kitchen. I was never part of her Pastelle brigade, but I enjoyed the aroma and the taste. Still young, I remember being able to help as my mother and father made Pastelles at our house. First being allowed to cut the string at just the right length to tie the bundles, and then as I grew older, being allowed to help tie. It was an entire days' project, but at the end of the day, the entire family sat down to enjoy the fruits of our labor. I loved the fact that everybody came over for Pastelles.

My parents stopped making Pastelles while I was still in high school, although I never knew why.
So it was a big surprise to not only my new husband, but my family as well, when only married for two weeks I announced that I was making Pastelles for the holidays. Pura was no longer with us, so I called my Mom and asked for the recipe. Of course, it wasn't written down, so she gave me as much as she remembered, and with the help of my sister, I made 75 Pastelles, the week before Christmas in 1982.

They weren't the best, obviously my Mom had the proportions off, but no one really cared. We were together for Pastelles at Christmas. My husband was so proud. Being Puerto Rican himself, he knew the labor that went into making them and only 'real' Puerto Ricans made Pastelles (I am only half Puerto Rican). Of all his siblings and cousins, only his sister kept the tradition going in his family. So we were both thrilled when my entire family came over and in our little apartment it was Christmas. Oh one correction, no one cared that they weren't the best, except my mother-in-law that is. Known in my husbands family as the Pastelle queen, she said she would teach me how to really make Pastelles. Over the next five or so years, we learned to blend my grandma's recipe with my MIL's. Every year, on the Saturday before Christmas we would get together at my house and make Pastelles.

The tradition is one I hold dearly. Nothing has changed in the last 26 years. We still make Pastelles on the Saturday before Christmas. Now, I have the help of my children, my husband, one of my sisters and one of her daughters. Even my neighbor comes over to help because she loves them so much. Sadly, my MIL is no longer with us, and my Dad who used to help, has passed away as well. We now make about 225.

My children know the story. They used to laugh at my MIL and I, as we debated the recipe. They grew up the same way as I, first cutting the string, then being allowed to tie, and now actually making the individual pastelles. Because we make so many, we now start Friday evening after dinner. First we make the 'masa'... the 'dough' made out of the root vegetables. This requires grating 40 lbs of green banana's, 3 lbs of yautea, 2 lbs of calabasa and a couple of green plantains. While they grate, I cut up 5 Pork Shoulders, into small 1" cubes. Both get seasoned and put in the fridge until the morning. Tomorrow, I will refine the masa, making sure that there are no lumbs, adding the rest of the ingredients, cook the meat and then the assembly line begins. We will finish our day around 6pm, with a clean kitchen, some Pastelles, Arroz con Gondules, Avocado and a house full of family.

My daughter has already said that no matter where she ends up living, she knows she will always come home the Saturday before Christmas to help me make Pastelles. We kid with my son, that we expect his wife to join us as well. And why not? That is how traditions are made... and kept, one generation after another.

So now it is time for me to get some sleep. The cooking starts tomorrow at 8am.

I hope you all have a Christmas Tradition that brings a smile to your face and warms your heart.


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Are you listed??

I noticed a recent spike in visitors to my blog, and when I took a good look at where they were coming from, I found out why.

A few weeks ago, I added my blog's url to two sites: and Now whenever I add a new post on my site, it gets posted on The result, whenever someone visits they see my post and by clicking on my blog name they are brought to my page. If they click on the label on my post, they get to see all of my posts that have the same label. If they go to they see a long list of quilt blogs, that they can click on and are brought right to the blog.

How cool is that!

I had listed my blog on these two sites, but never really spent time going thru them, until last night. There are some amazing quilters out there!

Take a look (I've added a link from my blog listings)... and if you aren't list, add your blog to both sites. It is really cool.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Getting there... but just how to finish it???

Ok, so I really like Xmas present #2. It is my 'royalty' or 'sophisticated mama' or '????" quilt I am making as a present. As I mentioned yesterday the sandwhich is done (I use 505 basting spray), so tonight I started the quilting. I am just about done with the outline quilting. All the interior sections are done and I just have to outline the hair of my mama.

Take a look....

So, now the question, how do I quilt it? I know I am going to do an all over pattern on the beige marbled background. But I want the eye to be drawn to the applique. I always love the wonderful detail quilting some of the art quilters do on bodies..... you can just see the muscles move, just looking at it.... you know which way they are leaning, and their body tells a story.

I want to create that same story with my piece. But how do I begin? I can chicken out and just quilt the garment, but I don't want to do that. Suggestions or tips anyone? Can you point me to a piece for inspiration?

Please!!!! I am begging for help. I want this to more than just a nice picture, I just need the guiding hand on how to make it so.

Now, click on 'Post a Comment' and share the love.... PLEASEEEEEE Just 10 days left to Xmas!!

Progress Report #2

So, Generation Patchwork is all quilted and squared up! Finally.... but I ran out of background fabric and I want to use the same fabric for the boarder (I used more pics than expected, so the piece is larger than I thought it would be). So I will have to wait until Thurs/Fri when I can get to the store to get fabric for the binding.

In the meantime, I have Royalty, aka Sophisticated Mama, aka... ??? all basted and ready to be quilted. I found a great African print in my stash that has all the right colors for the back. I have had the piece for over 5 years... it must have been waiting for the right quilt!

So this week I plan to get it quilted and bound, so that next week all I have to do is bind Generation Patchwork.

Whew... guess I am cutting it close, but I have completed all my Xmas shopping except for one gift and they all are wrapped, so I think I am ok. Plus, I am on vacation starting Friday. Yippee!

Ok, gonna get some sleep. I have my first conference call at 7am tomorrow....


Monday, December 8, 2008

Progress Report

So, I have made progress on both of my Xmas presents. My nieces have come through on the remaining photos for Generation Patchwork. I have the last four 4 photos printed and two of them framed. Two more to go and then hopefully by Saturday, I will have the background done. Now that I have the photos, I can figure out the right size.

Royalty (or maybe Sophisticated Mama or Lady Attitudinal, or.... yes, names are floating around in my head) is all appliqued. I forgot how much I dislike doing the satin stitch on circles. I can never get the satin stitch perfectly circular, at the right angle on small circles. But otherwise, I really like the progress. I also brought some yarns, ribbon and beads for embellishments this weekend at the Country Quilter Holiday Sale (a pack of yarns, threads and beads for only $5 in all the right colors... just what the doctor ordered).

So I think I am in good shape... make the background for the patchwork piece and then quilt both pieces and I still have 17 days left. I will make it... I HOPE :-)

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Xmas present #2: Royalty (I will have to think or a better name)

So my family continues to ask when they are getting another one of my quilts. I was asked this over and over Thanksgiving evening. Yes, it makes me feel good, especially that folks value my handmade gifts... but of course I want it to be a surprise, so someone else besides my SIL will be getting a present from the studio this year.

It all started with this sketch, inspired by a sculpture I saw in
Phili at a gallery and then a photo on the web of a different African woman. Well of course, not this sketch, but here's the sketch after a few changes and some colored pencils. I will have to call the gallery to get the name of the artist and find my bookmark of the photo to give credit on the label... (memo to self).

But I just loved the hair, it is what caught my eye. The rest is just window dressing. One must have confidence to walk around with braids all over the place. It is a confidence I think many of us lack. Anyway, back to the quilt. So off I went to Kinko/Fedex with my sketch and after blowing it up to 24"x36", I had my pattern.

I spent last night digging out the right fabrics from the stash, and tracing all the fusable web pieces and ironing them on to the fabric.

Tonight I put it all together.... giving me this:

It is all fused together and ironed on the background. The next couple of days I will spend appliqueing it on by machine. I think this piece warrants satin stitching vs a zig-zag, so it will take a while. I can't wait until I get to the accents. I think I am going to add small off-white feathers around the neck to add some flare to her garment, and maybe some jewels hanging from the gold underlayment. Hmpphhh... this is the part I love. How to make it special....

Well definitely something to sleep on.

Good-night all.....

Progress on Xmas present #1: Generation Patchwork..

Well in-between the holiday and the kids being home, I did get some quilting done.

I am working on a present for my SIL for Xmas at my husband's request. He saw a quilt with old photos on it at a shop in Savannah this summer and asked me to make one for his sister. Well that one had 4 pictures, but with a family his size, how do you get away with just FOUR pictures.... so I have 15 done, and 4 more to go. Unfortunately, it has been so hard getting good facial photos of everyone I want to include, those that are important to his sister. So, I am waiting for them to come in the mail... either email or snail mail. I have asked a few family members and I am praying they come in soon. Here are just 2 of the 15... my SIL as a young girl and their father....
I have framed each photo with white and black fabric. They will be sqaured up and added to a patchwork/weaved background of various greys and grey/greens. The photos will be appliqued onto the background. Well at least that is the idea as it stands now.

Hopefully the other photos get here soon, so I can get this finished... My DH says, just go with what you have, but how do you leave out her aunts on one side of the family, when you have the aunts on the other, or 1 of 5 neices/nephews. IMHO, you don't... so I will wait, and probably be sitting up at all hours of the night trying to get it finished in time.

Well, in the meantime, I will work on another present. All about that in the next post.


I'm still here...

Ok, so I keep getting asked... no new blogging lately. Sorry... life just seemed to get in the way. First we spent two weekend's painting the dining and living room. It is bad enough that the living room has lots of trim, including three french doors that need painting, but my husband got the walls 90% done when I realized something was wrong with the color. It didn't really match the dining room, or the 1/2 living room wall that was done with the first gallon of paint. The numbers on the can matched, but the paint was definitely a different color. So back to the paint store I went only to find that they used the wrong base on one of the gallons, of course that is the one my husband had used. Boy was he upset that he had to paint the room again!

Then the kids came home for Thanksgiving break. It was great having them home, so I couldn't just sit on the computer... I did slip in some quilting time... well what's a mother to do??? And of course I had 15 for Thanksgiving dinner, so all the prep and left-over's... and then saying goodbye to the kids... whew, exhausting.

Anyway... I have managed to get some quilting done. I will post pictures in a bit.

Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!