The Disneyland of Quilts!!

The main purpose of our jaunt to Kansas City was to see the Dutch art exhibit at the Nelson-Atkins Museum.  But a quick look at the map showed that the Missouri Star Quilt Company was just an hour away.  You can’t pass up the opportunity to see this amazing quilt store complex, can you??

We picked up our car at the gloomy old airport and were surprised to find that they had given us a bright yellow Mustang.


Of course, all we wanted to do was to ride around (Sally), so it was good to have an hour-long trip ahead of us.  We took an almost deserted highway to a two-lane road that wound up and down rolling hills, some of them rather steep, with rich black soil in the newly plowed farm fields on either side.  Another highway, another two-lane road, and we were in Hamilton, Missouri.IMG_20160420_132414

It’s a typical small town (pop. 1800), with incredibly wide streets (presumably so you could turn a horse and carriage around), head-in parking, and not a whole lot going on.  But Jenny Doan and her family have created eleven quilt shops here, and their empire has become the biggest employer in town.

We had lunch at the Blue Sage restaurant: a huge side salad of romaine, blue cheese and bacon for me, tomato soup for Alison, and a delicious shared lamb burger with fantastic home-made potato chips.  Thus fortified, we started next door at the Florals shop.  Brightly lit, nicely laid out, and an enticing beginning to two hours of browsing, yearning and actual shopping.

Here’s a peek at what we saw.

The Modern shop had fabrics from Cotton + Steel, my fave Marsha Derse, and, as you can see, lots more.  Fabrics are arranged by manufacturer or designer.


Each shop is beautifully staged, with the Modern shop featuring this mid-century modern tableau.IMG_20160420_143643

The solids shop had colorful display windows and a rainbow of mostly solids inside.  This is where I found the Pepper Cory shot cottons from Studio E that I had not been able to find anywhere!  Now I know – everything in the store is also available online.

Quilts and inspiration on the wall.IMG_20160420_143623IMG_20160420_143224IMG_20160420_143154

Non-quilters are not forgotten.  While many quilt shops have a couple of chairs for non-quilting friends (face it, usually husbands), this one features an entire “Man’s Land.” Leather recliners, two big-screen TVs, and bookshelves featuring sports-related books and equipment.  Two guys were there, one reading a copy of Guns & Ammo, the other snoring mightily, and both covered in quilts.  Alison retired here with a good book.IMG_20160420_140423

I didn’t break the bank, but I did come away with some project-related fabric, some hard-to-find IBC pins (recommended by Judith Baker Montano), and some random beautiful stuff: blues for my Sarah Fielke BOM, William Morris and neutrals for the hexie quilt, binding for the baby quilt, the shot cottons, and the Potting Shed Daily Deal which I just could not pass up!   46% off!!IMG_20160423_103742

On the way out, we stopped for a few more photos of the main drag.

We tootled back the way we came, stopping only for a picture of this clever Trump sign.  Hate the sentiment, love the inventiveness!IMG_20160420_162850

Justifying its existence

The akebia vine just sits there most of the year, putting out tendrils that want to conquer new territory but never quite getting there.  By February it is looking ratty, and then the transformation happens.  New leaves appear, it looks happy and healthy and, best of all, the tiny flowers bloom and release a heavenly scent.DSC06850

Today, the bees were enraptured, in particular this hovering variety.  Look at the middle of the frame…

I wish you could turn on your Smell-o-vision and experience it the way the bees and I do.  The birds like it, too, and I think the wrens may nest there.  Whether they appreciate the scent as much as I do is an open question.

Spring Ephemerals


Searching for spring ephemerals the day before St. Patrick’s Day was a great idea, but in reality the weather was hot and humid in this weird spring.  Nevertheless, we did spot a few joys, thanks to Ann’s sharp eyes.

Are these oyster mushrooms?


Bluebells just emerging, and leaves of trout lilies promise flowers later.


I think this is some kind of spurge (euphorbia), of which there are about a zillion varieties.


A true ephemeral, claytonia virginica, aka spring beauty.  You can just make out the helpful lines on the petals so that pollinators can find what they’re looking for.


I kept calling this witch hazel, but I think it is actually spicebush.

Ann knew what this was, though it’s hard to make out in this picture.  Shadbush is also called shadwood or shadblow, serviceberry or sarvisberry, or just sarvis, wild pear, juneberry, saskatoon, sugarplum or wild-plum, and chuckley pear, according to Wikipedia.


No walk is complete without wildlife.  We admired this shiny fellow along the path.

DSC06842Oh, and the turtles sunning themselves (top) are probably Eastern River Cooters, according to this site.  Unless they are Eastern Painted Turtles…

Bloom Day March 2016

A drizzly morning is good for the garden and good for garden photos.  In bloom today, after a very warm week last week and just a bit of welcome rain this week, are:

grape hyacinths – modest little bulbs but I want to add more for a sea of blue.  I like the contrast with the red blossoms from the maple.IMG_20160315_093458

hellebore – one of the most satisfying of perennials, these come in several colors and postures

daffodils – the cutting garden is doing well (I’ve already cut several dozen in the last few days), and more are in bloom under the oak tree and outside the shed.  I need some in the front garden.DSC06825

chionodoxa – my plan for a sea of blue under the hydrangeas is slow to mature, but I’ll keep adding bulbs each yearDSC06826

speaking of blue, the blue anemones seem to  be the only ones to survive.  They do well in sun and are not showing at their best on this cloudy morning.  They would look great under the maple tree.  Next year?DSC06828

and finally, leucojum ‘Snowflake’ – this one is in the bed with Bishops weed, so I rooted out both the weed and some of the leucojum a year or two back.  It seems to be thriving again.  It makes a very sweet tiny bouquet that allows you to see the delicate green lines on each petal.DSC06820

And, of course, dandelions, myrtle and forsythia, all appreciated but too common to record.  Otherwise, plenty of buds are swelling – not just the maple but also the bottlebrush buckeye and the hydrangeas.

On the way to Hampton

For the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival, about which more later.  I stopped in Colonial Williamsburg at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum to see a small collection of African-American quilts on display there.  I caught the very tail end of an informative tour, given every Friday morning, and since the exhibit will be there for some time to come, it would be well worth a return trip.

There were several Gee’s Bend quilts, some gorgeous scrap quilts, and two applique quilts that I adored.  DSC06776The lighting was horrible for pictures, but you get the drift.  Below is a log cabin done in beautiful silks and cottons.


All the fabrics!

alphabet quilt


An alphabet applique quilt.  The initials and date at the bottom right helped to attribute it to quilter Doris Smith.


Above and below is an applique quilt featuring tree blocks surrounded by animals, people, airplanes and other idiosyncratic elements.  Below are Davy Crockett, a beaver, and an airplane.  DSC06782

This one features angels, birds, flowers, people and everything from shade pulls to embroidery, yarn, and assorted scraps to decorate her top.   DSC06784DSC06785

The two girls pictured here are thought to be dead in part because they are white.  I would love to know what this quilter would have said about her creation.

From here I moved into another gallery that features just a few masterpiece quilts from the Winchester, VA, quilter whose work is also included in the DAR museum.  A totally different look at applique, piecing and quilting from Amelia Lauck.  Lauck applique

Then the icing on the cake:  an incredible embroidered counterpane showing a battle scene.  Tradition says it’s from the Civil War, but historians date is as being much earlier.  Just look at the uniforms!  And the  gorgeous embroidered trees!  counterpane

More details here:  DSC06789 - CopyDSC06788

Highly recommended!

San Jose on foot

What better way to start retirement than by traveling, learning and visiting family?  Hence this trip to Costa Rica.  The first half is a quilting workshop with Craftours, followed by four days with Beth and Bill.  Great combo!  Here’s a quick report on part one.

I flew in a day early to get oriented and see a bit of San Jose.  I had booked a morning walking tour with Barrio Bird so I headed from our hotel near the airport to downtown.

My cab ride featured incredible traffic and a very friendly driver who had about as much English as I have Spanish.  We made ourselves understood and enjoyed learning from each other.  She was interested that I had no children, and I’m afraid I shocked her when I said that my religion was “nada.”  She set me down at Parque Morena where our group was to meet.

Our group was only three:  me plus a young couple, an American lawyer and a Swiss architect, who lived in Switzerland and had been traveling throughout South and Central America for over a month.  Our young, enthusiastic guide took us through all the high points.

The metallic building:  Metallic buildingvery modern in 1897, shipped from Belgium with each part labeled with a letter or number for easy setup, kind of the Ikea of its time.  You can see the letters and numbers at the bottom of the columns here.Stafford Piecemakers show 005

It’s been an elementary school ever since, and despite the fears of the townspeople, the children have not baked like cookies inside the hot metal building, due to cross-ventilation and good insulation.  I wish I could tell Pat about it (the architect was intrigued).

We walked through several small, beautiful parks featuring, of course, house plants.  They live outdoors here and get enormous.  Here’s an example, the monstera deliciosa.  MonsteraWe ended up at the liquor factory, now an arts center, most interesting to me because of the sun dial outside that was installed incorrectly.  Rather than re-do it, the powers that be installed a plaque below it with an elaborate formula for calculating the correct time.sun dial

After walking by the national library, an imposing though not very welcoming  building, librarywe came to a monument to a bit of history that most Americans know little or nothing about.  William Walker was a brilliant young man from Tennessee who earned a medical degree and studied law.  In the 1850s he decided to invade Central America with the goal of annexing it all for the US, thus creating more slave states.  Though it was not a US invasion, it was certainly sanctioned by our government.  It ended badly for Walker, and the monument commemorates the five countries (actually just provinces of Spain back then) that rallied against him.  The hero of the day was Juan Santamaria, after whom the airport is named.  statueThere’s clearly a good story there, which I will try to track down…someday.

We ended up at the National Theater, an ornate building dating from 1897.  Built with coffee money, it opened with a production of Faust and features statues of  Chopin and Beethoven among
The interior is quite lavish.interior

Between this and the metallic building, San Jose was really on the cutting edge of art and culture back in the late nineteenth century.  Oh, and our guide told us that San Jose was only the third city in the world – after Paris and London – to have electricity!  It makes me think of those opera houses built in the jungles of South America in books by Eva Ibbotson and Ann Patchett.

After catching a quick lunch at Starbucks (sorry!), I walked back to the National Museum of Costa Rica which you enter through a butterfly garden. Here’s one.


An exhibit of pre-Columbian artifacts included these remarkable stone spheres.  They date from 600 but were re-discovered in the 1930s when the United Fruit company was clearing land for banana plantations.  The culture that made them has long since disappeared.  pre-columbian spheres

From here I walked down to the nearby Jade Museum for a cold drink and a rest.  I met one of our instructors, Pepper Cory, and together we rode the hop-on hop-off bus through the city, seeing sights like the president’s house (just the condo he lived in when he was elected), the gorgeous mosaics outside the University of Costa Rica, and the seamy side of town where drugs and prostitution made for a depressing scene.  After that, the driver agreed (I don’t really know why) to drive us 40 minutes back to our hotel, which was very generous of him.  Pepper and I discovered a mutual admiration for the Bernard Cornwell books and had a lovely chat as the sun set.  And so to bed to prepare for the first workshop tomorrow.

Bloom Day

So, it’s Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, but all we have here is a blanket of snow. 20160215_090932

Instead, here is an orchid I saw two days ago at the Lankester Botanical Garden in Costa Rica.Stafford Piecemakers show 014