Lulu collage quilt – she is finished!

Picked up Lulu from Erica, the awesome long arm quilt lady at A Needle and Thread, and couldn’t be happier! It was so fun to collaborate with her. Erica quilted an outline around the entire elephant image and custom quilted around the flowers, leaves, butterflies and other critters. I especially love the puffy textures she created with thread on the fishes. On the background yellow batik, Erica quilted an lovely all-over leaf design.

I’ve seen collage quilts quilted in tight vertical and horizontal grids. I know this ensures the fused fabric pieces will stay in place … but then I saw an alternative. Our collage quilt instructor, the awesome Jo Lynn, brought several completed collage quilts to class and they were stunning. On her quilts, the collaged image was custom quilted around the whole image as well as into the flowers, feathers, critters and such. I loved the look!

The amazing Sally embroidered the patch for the back of the quilt in hot pink thread. I had Sally place it on white fabric to remind me to “audition” background fabric on all future collage quilts. I almost had a huge “Oops.” I originally purchased plenty of white fabric for the elephant background while still taking the collage quilting class. I was obviously trying to hurry the process. Thank goodness I brought an unfinished Lulu for “show and tell” to the prayer quilt ministry I volunteer at on Wednesdays. The ladies stepped up and gently prepared me for an intervention. Yep … I would be making a huge mistake with the white! It was either Noreen or Cathy that suggested yellow and it really works on this quilt!

So what is next? I created a collage pattern and am busy working on a prototype collage quilt. Stay tuned! Future blog post in the making!

A cancer journey – scan result days make me nervous


So last week Rick had his three-month scans which included MRI and CT scans and the usual bloodletting. Scan day is emotionally draining and exhausting. Reminders everywhere of how far we have come … and we don’t want to go backwards.

Yep … and it never fails. Despite the anxiety, we chuckle every time we spend the day at MD Anderson. There are new things to learn. This time the lab where Rick has bloodwork in the Mays Building went all techie. We used to fill out a slip of paper with pertinent patient information before dropping it in a little plastic basket and wait to be called up to the desk. The paper slips have been replaced with electronics. Progress? Yesterday, when we arrived at check-in to see Dr. Campbell, all the iPads, except one, were out-of-order. Rick’s clinic went all techie a while ago. Not complaining mind you! I can relate! Heck … after replacing my sim card and getting a new iPhone, I am still dropping calls.

So to put life for us in perspective … since his diagnosis of Stage IV Kidney Cancer just over two years ago … Rick and I have welcomed two grandbabies. Ben, 18-months-old now, was born down the street in the medical center on one of Rick’s long immunotherapy infusion days. And little Zelie was born two weeks ago to our son and lovely daughter-in-law, Kate. Even Jacob has been deeply involved in Rick’s journey. Now four, Jacob came to wish his Pop-Pop good luck two years ago on the day Rick’s tumor/left kidney was removed. Jacob also walked the MD Anderson’s Boot Walk with us this past November while Baby Ben slept in his stroller. You don’t have to tell me we are blessed.

So just how did it go yesterday with lab results? Our visit with Dr. Campbell, our oncologist, and his lovely PA, Simi, was all we had prayed for. MRI … stable. CT … stable. Rick is just over a year from getting kicked off the clinical trial and receiving no cancer treatment. He still itches all the time, mostly from the inside, which tells us the immunotherapy is still working.

I asked Dr. Campbell how patients who are on Rick’s clinical trial are doing because I want to know. My editor, the lovely Cynthia, has trained me well. I had my steno pad all ready for details and statistics. Dr. Campbell indicated 55% of those on Rick’s immunotherapy clinical trial drug ARM of Bevacizumab and Nivolumab are having positive results. In the coming months, the trial will end and it will be number crunching time. I will be there with pen in hand to probe for any updates. It is my hope these two drugs will be the answer for all Clear Cell Kidney Cancer patients … not just for the 55% with positive results. That is probably just 50 people.

And now for the really great news … we don’t go back for FOUR months!!!! Can I get an amen?

A look back – 2017 quilting projects


2017 wasn’t a banner year for completing quilt projects. I count only two quilts that were actually completed! That means binding sewn down and patch on the back! One was a charity quilt donated to the Village Learning Center, the day center my Mimi attends. A lovely lady named Clare won it in their silent auction. I always love it when someone is excited to have one of my quilts. Hildy won the charity quilt last year for the Village and reminds me whenever I see her how much she enjoys it.

The other quilt completed was the 2015 Row-by-Row quilt which was a lot of fun. Eight rows make an official row-by-row quilt which is a very LONG quilt. It is the reason I put three rows on the back. That way the quilt fits perfect hung in my quilt room. I worked on the rows whenever there was a little extra time between the month-by-month mailings and finally sent it off for quilting. I actually have all my rows for 2016 still in their little plastic pouches untouched. As for 2017, I also have all my eight rows and actually worked on a few of them. I’ll let you peek at them later.

I believe it was that block-of-the-month Quilter’s Patch quilt through Fat Quarter Shop that ate my lunch this year. But as a result of the monthly project, I also grew and stretched as a quilter. The things you can do by manipulating fabric. Who knew? The top is now complete and pictured above. I did not make the large borders and switched a couple of the flowers around by accident. This quilt will be added to my meager supply of seasonal quilts that I hang around the house. I’ve been wanting a spring quilt in my quilt menagerie for some time. This quilt is it! Please excuse the wrinkle-ness of the quilt top photo. I was running off to take it to the long-arm lady and realized I didn’t have a photo. Whenever it is finished later this year, you will be the first to see it up close and personal! It is going to be awesome!

2018 is going to be fun!

So what is up for 2018? Want a little peek? Working on another baby quilt! Due in May, my lovely daughter-in-law, Kate, and son, Ricky, are having a little bundle of joy. It’s a GIRL. Kate and I collaborated and I think we have a winning baby quilt in the wings.

I am also taking a collage class at Painted Pony in mid-February. Can’t wait. I’ve had this Elephant quilt pattern named “Lulu” for about two years and could probably figure it out myself. But then this class popped up and I thought, let’s do it! My only dilemma … I’m torn whether to make the elephant hot pinks and greens, or use my stash of colorful Kaffe Fassett fabrics and go wild. Any suggestions?

International Quilt Festival in Houston this week!

The 2017 International Quilt Festival is in Houston this week! It is my favorite week of the year with so much eye candy, shopping, picking up on new trends in the quilting world and admiring the creativity of all the quilts on exhibit! This year I attended with my lovely sister, Gretchen.

On Wednesday night, first we shopped. It was a magical night because the Astros were also playing in Game 7 of the World Series. Texting hubby back and forth for game updates helped with the butterflies in our stomachs. We didn’t find out till our bus brought us to our cars at the end of the night that we had won!

But back to the quilt festival! Our first stop was the booth with the Fat Quarter Queen fat quarters! One of our goals was to look for teal fat quarters for a quilt we are planning to memorialize our sister, Mary, who lost her battle with Ovarian Cancer this year. MD Anderson has an Ovarian Quilt project where they auction off donated quilts. The funds raised are used to raise awareness and research funds for ovarian cancer. The auction is going on now through November 8. They also had a booth at the festival. Our perfect fat quarter for Mary’s quilt came with a teal background with black cats. It was purchased at KimonoMomo, who specializes in Japanese Textiles. She had fabric you don’t see in your local quilt shops.

“Mary could never have cats. She was allergic to them. But she rescued one once,” Gretchen said.

Perfect … then this fabric HAS to go into her quilt. We don’t have a quilt pattern yet. But colors could be black and white and teal … but that could change. Still we have a start!

Just a few of the many interesting quilt booths were Keri Designs, booth 605. This one has a special place in my heart. This designer is from Hawaii and has taken the artist, Charlie Harper’s artwork, which I LOVE, and turned them into quilt patterns. Another booth from Hawaii, was Quilt Passions, which hosts quilting retreats and classes for quilters. Now that is what I am talkin’ about! They are in their ninth year of hosting these retreats.

One of the huge trends we noticed was lots of wool. Check out booth 518, Carried Away Designs in Wool. Eye of the Beholder Quilt Design, booth 848, was giving demonstrations on reserve applique. It is one of skills that when you see it with your own eyeballs … you believe it can be done. Try to read about how to do it in a book and … Yuck. She had some very lovely patterns and quilt kits available. We lingered at a couple of booths from the Netherlands. Since our mother was born there we have a connection. Dutch Heritage had some lovely cotton reproductions of antique Dutch Chintzes. I purchased some in a large chunk, I think they measure in meters, in blue and cream. We also visited a booth on some fairly new technology called Cricut. My lovely friend, Michele, told us about this booth. This machine does some interesting custom things you have to see to believe. Yes … quilters will certainly benefit but also paper crafters and so many more areas of the craft world like 3D puzzle projects, cards, sewing patterns, iron-ons and so much more. These little machines come in several price points.

So this year I purchased a stack of fat quarters and only one pattern, a scrappy-looking house/tree quilt called “By the Numbers” by Debbie Wendt of Wendt Quilting. A real stash buster which was just what I was looking for.

With only 30 minutes to spare before the bus picked us up to take our group back to Kingwood, Gretchen and I headed over to the exhibit area to drool over the lovely quilts on exhibit. I snapped just a few photos for you to enjoy the diversity of what is out there in the quilt world. My favorite was the 15-foot long fish quilt. The artist is from Japan and when I watched the video of how he made it I was in awe. That is precisely why I also included some close-ups. My favorite was the turtle.

The International Quilt Festival in Houston ends Sunday … so get your walking shoes on and get on down to the George R. Brown Convention Center!

The Snowflake Quilt

This year, while struggling to keep up with those challenging block-of-the-month blocks, I also completed a quilt for The Village Learning Center’s fall gala. It is their big fundraiser for the year. Unfortunately, when Hurricane Harvey hit in September, it didn’t seem like a gala would be a good idea. There are so many people and businesses that were hurt in our area. So instead, they are holding a “non-event.” The silent and live auctions are being held online this week. I have bid my own quilt up twice. It is my hope they make a bunch of money on this “non-event.” Their amazing day center is a wonderful place where over 100 adults with developmental disabilities enjoy activities like bowling, arts and crafts, exercise and so much more. It is such a blessing to so many and a huge part of Mimi’s life!

This is the first time I have been called by the Village with a special request. They wanted a large lap-sized “snowflake” type quilt. They were originally going to combine it with other things in a silent auction package. So when the hurricane messed things up they decided to let the quilt stand on its own. Fortunately, I have always loved Christmas-themed fabric and seen it as my duty to contribute them to my stash each year. Well, somebody has to do it! Darn if I even had some fabric with snowflakes. I did have to go shopping in July for some additional Christmas “snowflake” fabric which was a little daunting.

The pattern is from American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine, issue August, 2009. The blocks are all 5-inch squares using white/cream Christmas 1-1/2″ strips for half of the blocks (the Rail Fence squares) and red Christmas/snowflake fabric for the block with the four triangles. Top Stitch Quilting professionally machine quilted the quilt with a large “snowflake” all-over pattern. The patch on the back was embroidered by Personalize-It in Kingwood (this business flooded during Harvey and I am hoping Tracey and her business will return to us).

Loretta’s boxer quilts … a labor of love!


Knew when I heard about the two generously-sized twin quilts my friend, the lovely Loretta, was making for her boys, it would be the perfect subject for this blog. I mean … who doesn’t want to read about quilts made from cotton boxer shorts? It was clear to me it was a labor of love. I had to know more.

But before we get to the boxer quilts … a little background. I met Loretta when we were in a Quilt Bee together for a bunch of happy years. This lady has some serious quilting skills. Sadly for me … two years ago she moved to the Texas Panhandle. At least we have been able to tag up once a year in the fall during the International Quilt Festival in Houston. I savor my “Loretta” face time!

So recently I did a little phone interview for this blog and also some catching up with the awesome Loretta. I learned that Loretta’s grandmother was a serious scrap quilter. When Loretta was a teenager, her grandmother asked Loretta’s mother, and four sisters, for scraps to make quilts for all her grandchildren. One of the 15 lucky recipients, Loretta’s quilt was made with soft colors and triangles and also handquilted. What a treasure to own such a quilt by a beloved family member.

Loretta has sewn since she was a teenager but didn’t learn to quilt until her first-born, Bethany, was 9 months old. That was when she took a 12-week beginning quilting class on Monday nights. Loretta cherished those Monday nights which fed her creativity and started a lifetime love of quilting. Each student made a sampler quilt with 36 blocks. Loretta used fabric colors popular in the 80’s … blues and pinks. The teacher taught such skills as rotary cutting, template making and applique. Loretta still has the quilt.

Fast forward a bunch of years and the addition of two sons! The concept of the boxer quilts got to be a joke with her boys. Loretta’s husband, Jim, used to tease the boys that their boxer shorts were on loan to them. They would someday see them in their mother’s fabric stash.

I loved the boxer quilt concept and the story behind the quilt! For quilters … inspiration can come from lots of places. I’ve seen quilts made from all kinds of things. Why not cotton boxer shorts?

Tyler and Matthew received colorful cotton boxers each Christmas from the time the boys started middle school. Both are now graduates from The University of Texas at Austin so that accounts for the plentiful supply! After the cotton boxers were replaced with new ones, Loretta cut the elastic off the top and took them apart making manageable blocks. Did you know you can get two nice sized pieces of fabric out of one pair of boxer shorts? After cleaning, starching and ironing, the soft cotton fabric called a very large plastic bin home for a number of years.

One of Matthew’s college friends even got into the act. Patrick donated a pair of St. Patrick’s Day boxer shorts when he heard about the project. See if you can pick out the clovers in the quilt photographs!

Tyler’s quilt was made into the “T” block pattern and measures 72 inches by 102 inches. Each block is 6 inches square. I LOVE this quilt! Oh … and did you notice a big friendly dog in some of the photos? That is Colt. Not sure … but I believe it is Tyler’s dog. Colt is often Loretta’s happy companion in her sewing room.

“He does like to spend time with me in my sewing room. I’m sure he would be a quilter … if he only had thumbs,” Loretta told me.

Matthew’s quilt is the traditional Monkey Wrench pattern, but it is also called Hole in the Barn Door. It also measures 72 inches by 102 inches. There are 36 twelve-inch blocks and 60 six-inch blocks in Matthew’s quilt. I love how Loretta made the block sizes on Matthew’s quilt two different sizes. She thought the block pattern needed the size variation. So visually appealing with all the scrappy boxer fabric!

Oh … so Loretta told me this funny story. Tyler had a pair of “good luck” boxers. They were green with white pokadots. He always wore them, even when they got a tad tight, on the first day of school. It was his insurance policy so he would get good teachers!

The two finished quilts were professionally quilted by my favorite longarm lady, Kim Norton. She used a burnt orange thread and longarm quilt pattern. Perfect for these UT graduates!

Loretta hasn’t officially let loose of the boxer quilts. We quilters bond with our quilts. Sometimes it takes a while to separate from our babies! They are currently laying across twin beds in her guest room.

“The quilts have to live with me for awhile,” she told me.

I can totally relate!

A cancer journey – new scan results!


Last week Rick had his three-month scan extravaganza. It seems like years (it has only been 20 months) since I wheeled a very sick husband through MDA’s automatic doors. It is probably why before backing out of the driveway, I asked Rick if he still remembered his patient number. The seven-digit number is asked multiple times by MDA personnel before testing. Yep, like our social security numbers, these digits are forever embeded in both our brains.

Rick just completed six months of observation without any medication. Previously, he had a couple of different types chemo pills which were a disaster. And before that months of immunotherapy. Testing and results this time around were going to be a very big deal.

So on Friday there was a bone scan, bloodwork (I lovingly call “bloodletting”), CT and a mega-MRI scans. I highly recommend having scans on Friday. Everything went so smoothly, in about 6 a.m. and out by 4 p.m. That was probably the shortest scan day in our history. We were both pinching ourselves. We even had time to catch a quick bite to eat at the Rotary House’s restaurant between the CT and MRI scan.

And today we received Rick’s stunning scan results from our favorite oncologist, Dr. Campbell. All the scans are the same as three months ago … stable. His lipase was even normal. Thank you Jesus and MD Anderson. We talked a lot about the trial he had been on. The reflection was good for our soul. This immunotherapy stuff has only been around seriously since 2012. I think it all started with treating Melonoma patients. Rick started on his Immunotherapy Trial for Clear Cell Kidney Cancer in early 2016. Since then, his trial has expanded from 60 patients to 105. That is because patients were doing so well. Rick’s combination of two drugs have a 58% positive response rate. The one drug has a 42% positive response rate. Dr. Campbell indicated they will have all their slots full on the trial by the end of the year for the 105 patients. These positive results bode well for future Clear Cell Kidney Cancer patients.

Dr. Campbell told us that they are expanding the types of cancers that receive immunotherapy ALL THE TIME. There are also new drugs being developed ALL THE TIME. He also said they have learned that some of the old drugs may not hold cancer at bay forever. Some of the drugs are doing very well. The good news is that patients, like Rick, who respond well to immunotherapy have a great chance that if cancer does return there will be lots more new treatment options to chose from.

We go back for scans in three months. If that visit is stable … four month scans.