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It’s Fun When Quilters Visit the Nutmeg Designs Booth: A Link to my Home Economics Past

Chinese Coins Quilt Pattern Trivet by Margaret Almon.
Chinese Coins Quilt Pattern Trivet, glass and gold smalti on wood, 6 inches, ©Margaret Almon.
Color Box Log Cabin by Margaret Almon, glass and ceramic on slate, 8×8 inches.
Broken Dishes Quilt Pattern Mosaic Trivet by Margaret Almon.
Broken Dishes Quilt Pattern Mosaic Trivet, glass on wood, ©Margaret Almon.
Asymmetric Log Cabin Mosaic by Margaret Almon
Asymmetric Log Cabin Mosaic by Margaret Almon. Glass on wood, 8×8 inches.

I love when quilters come into my booth, as at the 2012 PA Guild Show in Wilmington.  They come closer and are happy to find that the mosaics that looked familiar are indeed based on quilt patterns.  I had a conversation with a woman who loved the colors in my work, and that she feels the way about colors in fabric.   I won the Adele Swenson award for excellence in Home Economics in the 9th grade.

It took me awhile to figure out that the allure of Home Economics was that I liked  choosing fabric, not the actual sewing.  I still remember the colors and textures of fabric I chose in junior high: nubby linen in red with black flowers, brown plaid with gold threads, cream cotton with a tiny strawberry print, maroon fine wale corduroy(which apparently I was spelling the Canadian way, cordouroy, which the spellchecker took issue with), and black cotton with shimmering gold flowers for a blouse with gold piping.

I am glad that I can interpret quilt patterns in glass, keeping the color, and the thread connecting me to my younger self.

Mosaic Quilt Blocks in my Nutmeg Designs Etsy Shop.


Log Cabin Quilt in Glass: Triptych Mosaic Commission for a 40th Birthday by Margaret Almon

Log Cabin Mosaic Triptych by Margaret Almon
Log Cabin Mosaic Triptych by Margaret Almon


Triptych for Michelle Panel 1 by Margaret Almon
Triptych for Michelle Panel 1 by Margaret Almon
Triptych for Michelle Panel 2 by Margaret Almon
Triptych for Michelle Panel 2 by Margaret Almon
Triptych for Michelle Panel 3
Triptych for Michelle Panel 3 by Margaret Almon


This project was a joy!  The client came to see my studio, to look for something in honor of her 40th birthday, and what caught her eye was a small panel, 8×8″ on my living room wall, which I’d made for myself.  Michelle commissioned me to make three panels, 12×12″, to go over her mantle.

Triptych in Process in Margaret Almon's Studio
Triptych in Process in Margaret Almon’s Studio

I started by making the middle panel, inspired by my own piece.  Then I worked on the two side panels in tandem, so I could visualize the whole pattern.  Each square is a different variation on Log Cabin or Square within a Square quilt patterns, and each has its own personality.   Michelle said her mother said they are like jewels.  I love that image!  I am honored that Michelle chose my work as a way to celebrate a special event in her life, and that I could bring vibrant color and sparkle into her living room.

Triptych Mosaic Panels for Michelle by Margaret Almon
Triptych Mosaic Panels for Michelle by Margaret Almon


Commission Margaret

The Triangle Shirtwaist Jazz Project: A Way to Back the Arts with Kickstarter

Triangle Trivet by Margaret Almon
Red and Black Pinwheel Mosaic Trivet by Margaret Almon.

Kickstarter has gotten my imagination, with the possibility of helping living artists create their work.  Stratoz and I contributed to The Triangle Shirtwaist Jazz Project, by composer Jim Kuemmerle. As he says in describing his project:

Next March 25th is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire, a horrific tragedy that inspired a wave of governmental and workplace reform.

For this past year, I’ve been composing and arranging a series of instrumental jazz pieces that together honor and reinterpret the story of the Triangle factory. They incorporate influences from traditional East European, Jewish, and Italian folk and sacred music, as well as influences from across the spectrum of jazz.

146 people died in the fire, mostly young immigrant women, because the all the doors were locked at closing time because the owners wanted to search the workers as they left. Ironically, the shirtwaist was an article of clothing that many women found a relief, because it was much more comfortable than corsets and hoop skirts, and in my post about Tiffany glass artist Clara Driscoll, she is shown wearing a shirtwaist blouse.

When I was an undergraduate, I took a class in the history of the labor movement in the United States, and was very moved by the account of this fire, as well as the story of the Lawrence textile workers'(mostly women and girls)strike of 1912, and wrote a series of poems for my MFA in creative writing on women workers.  Triangles have been a favorite motif in my mosaics, especially those from quilt blocks like “Spinning Pinwheel” and “Broken Dishes” and remind me of how quilts were usually the work of women’s hands.

In 2007,  Kuemmerle wrote a composition  entitled “Kolmio,” which means ‘triangle’ in Finnish. This piece was written for a modern dance project at Arizona State University.

An interview with a woman who worked in the Triangle Factory as a girl.

Over at Stratoz’s Blog:

Jazz on Tuesdays:  Labor History with Jim Kuemmerle


UPDATE:  Goal was met, and we received our CD and have listened to it with pleasure.  Review of Jim Kuemmerle Triangle Shirtwaist Jazz Project.

Trivets and Coasters: Margaret Almon Mosaics at PA Guild Shop in Lancaster

Triangle Trivet by Margaret Almon
Pinwheel Coaster by Margaret Almon of Nutmeg Designs. Glass on wood, 6 inches.

I am pleased to be part of the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen’s In the Kitchen:  Where Fine Food and Fine Craft Gather Together.  Come check out an array of 8″ mosaic trivets, inspired by quilt patterns, and the newly rechristened 6″ “coasters.”  I have been calling the smaller ones trivets, but a recent customer bought one as a “permanent coaster” to have by her chair in the living room, and at this weekend’s craft fair, a young woman informed me that if she could buy one it would be her most favorite coaster ever. So whether you have a wedding, housewarming, or a kitchen to transform, In the Kitchen will be the place to be.

250+ unique works from 25+ craftsmen. Cutting boards, wooden spoons, mugs, and of course, mosaic coasters and trivets.


5 Fabulous Quilt and Textile Bloggers to Inspire Any Artist

Lime and Violet Log Cabin Mosaic by Margaret Almon of Nutmeg Designs
Lime and Violet Log Cabin Mosaic by Margaret Almon of Nutmeg Designs

Deciding to make quilt patterns in glass was one of the most exciting choices I’ve made as a mosaic artist.  The Log Cabin block in particular brings out my creativity and allows me to play with color.  The challenge of making scrap quilts gives me a good springboard for my own mosaics made of scraps of glass.  Stratoz creates a lot of glass bits in his studio, and I love putting them to good use.

Quilters also quite adept at blogging and I’d like to share some of my favorite quilt bloggers.  They are a storehouse of creative energy.

Barbara Brackman’s Material Culture: Information from a Quilt Historian About Quilt Fabric Past and Present

There is so much history encoded in different fabrics, and Barbara Brackman provides fascinating detail, and always has photos.  I especially enjoyed the Perkiomen Valley Patch, as I live very near the Perkiomen Valley in PA.

Lisa Call:  Contemporary Textile Art

Lisa Call says she creates vivid geometric abstract contemporary quilts.  I feel a kinship to her experimentation with color and her passion for her art.  She has an interesting post about working in a series, and the permutations the theme takes.

The Textile Blog

John Hopper writes about every imaginable textile from quilts to embroidery to macrame!  I’ve learned a lot from his meticulous research and writing.  He highlighted a contemporary quilt artist Paula Nadelstern and her cool kaleidescope quilts.

Sew On and On:  My Joyful Journey Through Arts and Life

Valerie Kamikubo populates her blog with visual treats, and her observations about art and creativity.  The colors in her post of dyeing fabric are very vibrant.

Planet Textile Threads(link currently not working)


Further Reading

Beautiful Thrift: Coin Quilt Patterns in Mosaic

Making a Variable Star Mosaic: Ohio Star

Over at Stratoz:

7 for the Weekend–Celebrating a 2009 Quilt Show

Stained Glass:  Bartering a Bear Paw Quilt Design

Quilt Shows in Pennsylvania

Making a Variable Star Mosaic: Ohio Star

Ohio Star Glass Mosaic by Margaret Almon
Ohio Star Glass Mosaic by Margaret Almon

At a craft show, a woman came up to me and said “Ohio Star.”  At first I didn’t know what she was talking about, but then she said that Ohio Star would be well suited to my mosaics.  I finally had the chance to try this pattern out, and it was indeed an enjoyable one!

From my research into the origins of this pattern, Ohio Star became popular in the mid-19th century, and is of the genre of variable stars, which take any number of configurations of squares and triangles.  But like many quilt patterns, any more exact history is difficult to find.  Marsha McCloskey’s book, Variable Star Quilts and How to Make Them, notes that “Variable Star” is an astronomy term, and means a star that varies greatly in its brightness, depending on its surroundings, and that it is a fitting name for a quilt block that varies in its coloration depending on the colors of the the surrounding blocks.

Check out this cool variable star from Nasa’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, V838 Monocerotis(which means unicorn).

Request your favorite quilt block in glass.

Related Post:

Quilts of Glass:  Log Cabin, Broken Dishes, and Perhaps Ohio Star


Beautiful Thrift: Coin Quilt Patterns in Mosaic

Chinese Coins Quilt Block Mosaic by Margaret Almon, with frame by DAMI.
Chinese Coins Quilt Block Mosaic by Margaret Almon, with frame by DAMI.

I have mosaics in a new pattern, Chinese Coins.  Coin quilts go by many names, including Roman, Chinese and Stacked coins, and I fell in love with the variation in widths of the strips and the rhythm this creates.  Gwen Marston, author of Liberated String Quilts, considers them the “Jackson Pollock” of quilt pattern.

In this pattern, coins are made of strings of fabric, and are a way to use up scraps that are too small for anything else.  I was interested to read an article by Kimberly Wulfert describing string quilts as a product of economic depression, a form of utilitarian thrift.  The first time I saw a string quilt in a display of Amish quilts, I was fascinated by the dynamism of lights and darks rippling through vertical lines.

Most of these quilts had a hard life because they were used intensely, and they filled a need.  Some that have survived are in the quilts of Gee’s Bend.  Auburn University’s Women’s Studies department put together a very cool project putting the Gee’s Bend quilts in context of history, geography, and complete with activities for kids and ideas for teachers.

I was looking for a new pattern to do in mosaic, and kept looking at Chinese Coins, and thinking I couldn’t find a way to translate it into glass, but then one day I decided I wanted to find a way.  It was fun choosing different types of glass, and like the quilters, I had many strips already cut from other projects, just waiting to be used up.

Related Posts:

Ann Hermes Miniature Quilts

Quilts of Glass: Log Cabin

Over at Stratoz’s Blog:

7 for the weekend–celebrating a 2009 quilt show


My Quilt, Textiles and Fiber Art Board on Pinterest

INTERVIEW with Gwen Marston on Crafty Planner Podcast

Clear, Bright, Gleaming: Easter and Clearance of the Spirit

Log Cabin in Copper and Green by Margaret Almon

This morning I went to my husband’s Episcopal church for a sunrise Easter service.  I don’t usually go, but this was the first year in my memory of a sunrise service, and I loved this as a child.  In Edmonton,this involved getting up at 4:30 in the morning, and putting on a new pastel Easter dress and a warm coat over top of that, and then standing outside, often with snow still on the ground, and an overcast sky, with the Moravian Trombone choir intoning beautiful chorales, and singing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today: Alleluia!” As the Moravian Music Foundation notes, the 18th and 19th Century Moravians considered music a necessity of life.

This morning’s service began in darkness at 6:00 am, with the lighting of the Paschal candle, and proceeded by candlelight vigil as the sun rose, and the stained glass windows became illumined.  Growing up in the Moravian church, I was accustomed to simple spare sanctuaries.  As an artist, the Episcopalian church is a revelation, with art as part of the spiritual life, art as a way to reflect as much light as possible.

As I prepare for the Bucks Chapter Guild of Craftsmen Craft Studio Clearance Sale on April 25th, 2009, I started thinking about the word “clearance.”  I looked up the etymology, and was surprised to see it is from the Latin root, clarus, “clear, bright, gleaming,” and ultimately from the Indo-European kele, meaning to call.  This is serendipitous for a mosaic artist, as the essence of the glass comes from light, bright and gleaming.  I have a closet in my studio, that is full of mosaics, squirreled away in the darkness, hibernating, mostly forgotten.  I brought them out, to be in the light, and become reanimated, like the log cabin square in copper and green.  Many of these are from earlier incarnations of my work, and I can see the seeds of my current work within them.  It is a fact of enjoying creating art, that I have more art than I can really store, and so I am clearing out for the new, and sharing some light at a lower than usual price.

Quilts of glass: Log Cabin, Broken Dishes, and maybe Ohio Star

Helen Danner and her Quilting Group. (2nd from the right)
Mamie Danner and her Quilting Group. (2nd from the right)

I have been honored to cover my bed with quilts made by my husband’s grandmother Mamie Danner, and Wayne’s love of quilts piqued my own interest with this art form. In this photo, Mamie is 2nd from the right. She had a quilting room in the basement of her house, and Wayne remembers visiting her there.

Log Cabin Mosaic Trivet by Margaret Almon
Log Cabin Mosaic Trivet by Margaret Almon

Quilt patterns give me a thrill, and being to translate them into glass is very exciting. My ability to sew blocks is impeded by an antagonistic relationship with my sewing machine(which now belongs to my husband for the quilt he made). At first I collaged Christmas cards in a log cabin pattern, using magazine papers, and was utterly absorbed in the interplay of color, the many tones and textures present in photographic images. Then, when I moved into my studio, and began to make mosaics, I remembered the log cabin cards, and wondered what I could do with mosaic.

Log Cabin in Black and Red by Margaret Almon
Log Cabin in Black and Red by Margaret Almon

I took a 12×12 inch square of 1/2 inch plywood, and began the process of making a red and black log cabin design. Glass has a range of textures, and I alternated shiny, matte, copper flecked, rough, translucent, and iridized. I am drawn to both visual and tactile texture. I know some mosaicists like their work perfectly flat and smooth and go to great lengths to make it so, but that would drive me crazy.

Broken Dishes Quilt Pattern in Mosaic by Margaret Almon
Broken Dishes Quilt Pattern in Mosaic by Margaret Almon

Another block I was intrigued to find is called “Broken Dishes”–an appropriate name for work done in mosaic! It’s a mixture of triangles, in a configuration of lights and darks that adds sparkle as the eye moves over the contrasts. At a holiday show, a woman came up to me and said “Ohio Star.” At first, I wasn’t sure what she meant, and then she said, you must try Ohio Star, and that is next on my list of patterns to try.

Related Posts:

Ann Hermes Miniature Quilts

Beautiful Thrift: Coin Quilt Patterns in Mosaic

Making a Variable Star Mosaic:  Ohio Star