Palette Parade- Witch Hazel

So, I went to Seattle a couple of weeks ago. My first time anywhere on the west coast.  I am in love.  I simply adored the weather when we were there.  40s and misty/foggy most of the day, but somehow still bright and pleasant.  It was just beautiful. So many shades of grey.  The filtered light made all the flowers simply glow.  Yup, flowers in February.  But mild in the summer.  What a lovely climate…

We went for a walk at the Bellevue Botanical Gardens one morning.  We were still on east coast time, so we were up and ready hours before anything was open, which left us hours to leisurely stroll the gardens and snap photos.  It was so serene.  One of the first things to greet us was this spectacular witch hazel.  Remember now, this was early February- so, it’s winter!

The crisp yellow against the foggy trees was almost too much- we could have gone back to the car at that point and I would have been satisfied.

What are those scraggly pine trees in the background?  Larch?  I think it’s the same one that is on the Oregon License plate.  I love their irregular shape so much.  Our boring old spruces with their perfectly triangular forms just can’t compare.

Anyway, the witch hazel.  As if it wasn’t enough to find a sunny yellow flower against a foggy grey sky, each flower emerges from a base of deep rusty red.  That little bit of rust does a lot of things here-  it warms up what can be a very stark color combination, It adds a third color which can be useful when planning the design of a quilt, and I think it gives the composition a more organic feel.

Fabric images courtesy of Pink Chalk Fabrics

1. Carolyn Friedlander Architextures Hatch Grey 2. Robert Kaufman Quilter’s Linen Platinum 3. Sarah Watts Timber & Leaf Pine Stickers Yellow 4. Robert Kaufman Essex Linen Linen 5. Sweetwater Noteworthy Sing Out Loud 6.Tomotake Muddy Works Currants Yellow – Double Gauze Cotton 7. Michael Miller Fabrics Cotton Couture Khaki 8. Amy Butler Alchemy Memoir Zest 9. Carolyn Friedlander Architextures Map Grey 10.Robert Kaufman Essex Linen Putty 11.Moda Grunge Basics Maraschino Cherry 12.Robert Kaufman Quilter’s Linen Rust

My quilt mock-up is obviously a pretty literal interpretation of the blooms.  I think it would be fun to sew these free-form.  Because machine paper piecing is just not my thing.  It really wouldn’t take too long, right?  Sew, press, trim, then add the little rust triangle, repeat.  I have a quilty weekend coming up, so maybe…  I think for this one, I would hand quilt some irregular wavy lines, sort of mimicking the branch structure, from the bottom right up to the top left.

I went back and recolored my Candy Hearts Quilt with these fabrics as well.  Because that quilt was really bright 🙂  Love this.

Witch Hazel- Jelena by Ruth B McDowell

I also want to share a quilt I have admired for years, Witch Hazel by Ruth B McDowell.  This photo is from her book Fabric Journey.  It’s one that I have probably stared at for hours, trying to absorb all the fabric information that is incorporated into the work.  I adore all the pale greys she used for the background of this quilt, especially the one at the top with the branches.

Palette Parade- Linden Hall

Linden Hall, PA

This picture was taken in central Pennsylvania, where I grew up.  The rolling hills are so lovely there and the lavender mountains were always there in the background, something I never really noticed until I moved to Maryland and there weren’t any.  I miss them terribly.  Now when we drive back home, I watch all the scenery go by my window and I try to soak every minute of it in.

All Fabric images courtesy of Pink Chalk Fabrics
1. Patty Sloniger Les Amis Faux Bois White 2. Kaffe Fassett Shot Cotton Ginger 3. Michael Miller Fabrics Cotton Couture Fog 4. Moda Bella Solids Feather 5. Lizzy House Pearl Bracelet Hiho Silver 6.Sarah Watts Timber & Leaf Playful Fox Blue 7. Joel Dewberry Notting Hill Historic Trail Citron 8. Patty Sloniger Les Amis Star Pods Green 9. Moda Grunge Basics White 10. Sweetwater Noteworthy Sing Out Loud Cloudy 11. Denyse Schmidt Chicopee Ziggy Medallion Black 12. Sarah Watts Timber & Leaf Tree Rings Blue 13. Alison Glass Lucky Penny Bike Path Chartreuse

As I’ve been making this palette I’ve been dreaming of fixing up the little church and making it my studio.  What an inspiring view of the valley I would have!  I could build a little deck off the back and have coffee and paint the sunset.  But I have these fantasies about every derelict old structure we see, from something relatively intact like this church,  to the house  I used to pass on my way to work that had nothing left but its stone shell.  Something in me just wants to save them.  Because someone else put so much of themselves into making them.  If I retire a billionaire, I will save old houses for fun and sell them to people who will love them.  But anyway, the quilt…

I was in the mood for a very low-volume quilt this week.  Nice and soothing.  So I based the quilt on the white and greys of the church and added the chartreuse and ginger  just as  little accents.  And I would bind it with this Chicopee print.

Sarah Watts Timber & Leaf Playful Fox in Blue

Aren’t these foxes wonderful?  I can totally picture them slinking around in this scene.  I had never heard of Sarah Watts before, but I love her Timber & Leaf collection!  I would sew a big piece of these guys into the back of this quilt.

And it would remind me of home.

Goodbye House

SunriseWe are moving again.

Exchanging a 100 year old house full of character and charm for one where water doesn’t drip from the ceilings at random intervals.  Giving up twelve glorious acres, but giving Garrett back two of the hours he spends commuting every day.  And packing up my studio, which had a wall of windows overlooking the creek (but practically no heat), for a corner of  the basement.



If I sound melancholy I suppose I am; I really wanted this place to work out and even had little fantasies about buying it someday, even if my practical self knew that it was a terrible idea.  In the end our landlord made the decision for us, by dragging his feet so long on the necessary repairs that we felt like we couldn’t continue to raise our family here.


Violet and Friend

Misty Color Palette

Dead Maple

But if we can ignore its mechanical failures, this place has a presence, a patina, that only time can create.  There is an air of fading grandeur which I quite enjoy.  The old landscaping is overgrown and mysterious.  Perfect for hide and seek.  Perfect for prowling about with my camera.  Luckily I took thousands of pictures here, enough artistic inspiration for the next decade is cached away on my hard drive.

Light Through the Maples

Creek View

Our new home is in a charming little town.  It is brand-spanking new, so what it lacks in patina, it should make up for in functionality.  We’ll be minutes from coffee shops, restaurants, and the quilt shop that has supported my creativity for the past 4 years.  It’s going to be awesome.  And as soon as we get there I intend to begin enjoying all those perks.

But for now, for our last days here, let me dwell a bit in the beauty and grace of this lovely old place.  We’ve made a lot of memories in our short time here.

Early Morning

Bea in my belly

Meeting Bea

Fall is Coming

Early Fall

Raking Leaves

New Sister

Evelyn Bea

Fall Sky

Mossy Stump

Fall Colors


The Christmas Molecule

Great Blue Heron

Snowy Morning

Snowy Morning

Snowy Canoes

The Artist

Spring by the Creek

New Dogwood



Spring Maples

Summer Leaves

Barred Owl


Sunlit Maple

So I offer up some of my favorite photos from this place, closing the book on this little chapter of our family’s history.  Goodbye, house!  I won’t forget you!


I posted more of my favorite photos from this place here.

Spring Palettes

Just a couple of pretty palettes today.

Redbud + Twig

Which do you like better?  With green or without?

Redbud + Sky

I’ve always liked earthier palettes, always favored espresso over black, until this year.  Lately, I’ve been going crazy for cool bright colors + grey and black. Think pinky-purple thistle, grape Popsicle, bright navy, plus white, cool grey fog, and black.  Maybe a touch of fuchsia.  Swoon.  Black makes the other colors pop, of course, but so would the white.  What I am crazy for is the edginess the black gives to the otherwise girly sweetness of it all. I have bits of black working into all of my upcoming projects (and I will share them if and when I ever get two hands free at the same time and start sewing again!  Blogging can be done, and is being done, one-handed with baby on lap.  Sewing, not so much.)

I’m not the only one in the house going gaga for black right now.

We were at Target picking out nail polish and my sweet little 3 year old Vi, given the choice of any number of pinks and purples and all sorts of colors suitable for little girls, opted for black.  What can I expect, I suppose, from a girl who was reciting large portions of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas at age 2.  Lots of excitement in store, I believe, as this one gets older!

I love freezer-paper-English-paper-piecing

Hexie Stack

I am working on an exciting new project with these little guys!  I keep the stack on the kitchen table and work on them a few at a time whenever I can steal a minute away from Little Miss Teething Troubles.

Hexie Love

The stack is coming along rather quickly- I love English Paper Piecing!  It’s the best way to get something done in little bits of time.

Hexie Love 2

And, it’s spring.  Hooray spring!  No more filling the heating oil tank every month!  And pretty flowers ‘n’ stuff.  We didn’t have much of a winter this year so the warm weather isn’t as exciting as it might otherwise be.  We were kind of hoping winter would go out with a bang and give us just one big snowstorm before all the flowers came out, but they’re here, so might as well take pictures of ’em.

Magnolia Stella

Magnolia Stella

So, Happy Spring!

River Quilt

I couldn’t stop thinking about a winter palette last night, so I pulled some colors from a photo of my favorite trees.

And designed a quilt with them.

All fabrics available at Pink Chalk Fabrics

I wanted a quick and fun quilt to put together.  This is sort of an expansion of the book stack quilts that have been popping up everywhere.

Stacked Books Quilt by s.o.t.a.k handmade

Bend the stack into a graceful curve and suddenly it’s a river.

Every day, all day, I look out the play room window at the water, just to see what’s going on out there.  These colors, the dove and taupe of the Sycamore bark, the rusty orange of the oak leaves, the slate blue-green of the water… have been in my thoughts for months.  I really should make this quilt.

Winter Pretty

When the fall foliage was in its full glory, I was sure I’d be depressed to see it all fall to the ground.  If I was lucky enough to get the baby to sleep while Garrett was home and it was still light out, I’d race outside and prowl around the yard, up and down the creek,  photographing every tree from every angle.  I loved fall.

But winter is so pretty.  Maybe it’s just because it’s all we have right now, so we might as well find something to enjoy about it.  I’ve been taking just as many photos this winter as I did in summer and fall.  It becomes a game, an exercise, trying to find something that still looks pretty when so much of the plant life out there is hibernating, matted and dull.

The azaleas look like spring all year long.

Shocking lavender and magenta brambles against the deep earthy neutrals of old tree trunks.  Makes me want to run to my stash and begin pulling fabrics for something new.

No shortage of decaying wood around here, it supports all sorts of pretty fungi.  🙂

Creepy Colors

This morning we woke up in the dark to flashes of lightning and the sound of distant thunder.  The storm got to us just before dawn, and you could barely tell the sun was up through the ominous cover of bruise-purple clouds.

Storm at Dawn

Storm at Dawn 3

I wanted to take pictures of the color but I admit that I darted out and then right back in.  Not a storm I wanted to be caught in.  As the sun rose, the sky turned a pea-soup green and then finally a pewtery purple as the rain started to fall.  It was a gorgeous storm to watch.  It dumped on us for at least an hour and lightning struck close enough to pop the surge protector on the TV and printer.

Storm at Dawn 7

Stormy Palette

I can’t resist an interesting color combination and so I had to pull a palette from some of the photos.  I would love a wardrobe makeover in these colors.

And this one would make a great quilt for a guy.

Storm at Dawn 11

Stormy Palette 2

And the river is flooding.  Again.  Yeesh!  Last weekend the neighbors got tired of moving all their lawn furniture to higher ground and just tied everything to the trees. I give.

Water, water


Rainy Day6

Yesterday I went out to take some pictures of the rainy day.  It has been raining for days and days, and all that darkness makes the house feel kind of gloomy sometimes.  I thought I was going to capture a bit of that gloominess on film, but instead, I was in love with the images on my camera.  The green leaves seemed to glow in the soft light, and the raindrops formed beautiful abstract patterns with a few fallen leaves on the deck.

Rainy Day7

Rainy Day4

Rainy Day2

The tiny stream out back that had been dry all summer has filled back up and the gurgling and rushing of the water was soothing background noise.

Rainy Day13

I walked down to the river and took some pictures, as it was closer to the bank than it’s been all summer.  Yesterday I loved the rain.

Rainy Day11

This morning around 2am, we awoke to the sounds of the neighbors moving their belongings out of sheds and basements, into trucks and trailers, and driving them away to higher ground.  Three days of rain have finally overwhelmed the river and it has jumped the bank.  Here is a picture of the hickory-nut tree, taken yesterday:

Rainy Day1

And there, out in the distance, is how it looked when we woke up this morning:


The double sycamore tree on the edge of the river yesterday:

Rainy Day12

The double sycamore out there in the middle of the river this morning:


Our neighbor’s boat was on the bank yesterday:

Rainy Day15

And today, well, today it’s not quite in the same spot- but lucky for them it got stuck in some trees down the river, so they should be able to pull it out of the woods in a few days.

Our house is far enough from the river that it shouldn’t be affected.  The house is 100 years old and the river has never reached it.  I know many, many people on the east coast won’t be so lucky, and my heart goes out to them.

When we moved into this place, we told ourselves it would take a flood of biblical proportions to reach the house and we weren’t worried.  Wouldn’t you know it, since we moved in 4 months ago, this area has seen two of the worst floods in recorded history.  I do think that our house will be spared from the storm but even so it’s hard to take our eyes or our minds off the rushing water.  We’ll be peering out of the windows a lot for the next day or two, I think.


Meanwhile, I am knee-deep in designing a new fabric collection. With all this excitement going on outside of my studio window, I have a good feeling that images of the swirling water are going to find their way into the designs.  Now time to stop looking at the water and get to work!

A Day Unplugged!

What to do when a hurricane knocks out the power:

Play Monopoly with the whole family

Hurricane Monopoly

Finish knitting project

knitting with bea

Finish hand sewing project

Star-leaf quilt block complete

Take a walk and rejoice in the crisp, cool weather that blows in after a hurricane blows out

summer walk

And, after eating mostly crackers and Lebanon bologna all day and wondering aloud how far we’d have to drive to find an open Cracker Barrel, (nursing mamas get hungry!) rejoice again when the power comes back on after only 14 hours!

Although I’m sure being without power would rapidly have lost its idyllic charm had it been much longer than a day, (especially because we have an electric well pump) this day made me feel extremely lucky to be surrounded by the family we have created and grateful that we were able to enjoy being unplugged, together.