“Quilting in the Coop” – Book Review

Sew, O’Susannah! is excited to share their first book review with you. We plan to do this each month, so be sure to keep looking. There is a separate link here on the blog that will capture all the reviews so you’ll be able to find them easily in the future.

Our First Book Review: Quilting in the Coop

Quilting in the Coop by Emily McGlothlen

Book Name: Quilting in the Coop
Author: Emily McGlothlen
Publisher & Date: The Little Red Hen, 2012
Pages: 36

One of the first things I noticed about this book is it’s packed with 14 patterns and there is something for everyone. There is pieced work, appliqué, embroidery, wool work and even redwork.

My favorites are noted here. I would love to hear which ones are your favorites. And, if you make any of the patterns, post a picture!

Betsy’s Favorites from Quilting in the Coop

Irish Blessing (p. 4) – I love the blessing, house and sheep.
Grandma’s Redwork (p. 8) – reminds me of my mom. Oh – and I also love the vintage cherry clock shown in the picture.
All American (p.14) – love the fabric choices in this one. Makes the stars pop and float.
Laundry Fun (p.20) – this is just the cutest with the clothes hung on the line, “The Laundry Room. It’s Loads of Fun.”

Lovin’ It:
– Cute photography that always shows the pieces really well
– Clear directions
– Big variety of patterns for all skill levels
– Patterns that are clear

Likin’ It:
– A couple (but only a couple) of patterns have to be enlarged. I always find this difficult and I tend to shy from them. But that’s just me. This may not be an issue for you.
– Four patterns need Transfer-Eze (usually for lettering). I didn’t know exactly what that was but O’Susannah’s does carry it but it’s expensive. However, if you do a lot of lettering in your quilting or embroidery, I’m sure it’s worth the cost. I plan to check it out myself.

I close this post with the Irish Blessing:

“May you always have walls for the winds
A roof for the rain,
Tea beside the fire,
Laughter to cheer you,
Those you love near you,
And all your heart might desire.”

Comment and let us know what you think! –Betsy

Enter the Blog Block Giveaway through our Rafflecopter giveaway. Don’t forget to comment on the post.  We’ll be giving away all 12 blocks on May 1, 2014!


Block Blog Giveaway Week#4

This is a Double Patch block made by Betsy Alderman Lewis for week #4 of Sew, O'Susannah's Big Block Giveaway.

This is a Double Patch block made by Betsy Alderman Lewis for week #4 of Sew, O’Susannah’s Big Block Giveaway.

Seeing that I am the co-writer of this blog, I guess I need to write my own post. 🙂 So let me introduce myself.

My name is Betsy Alderman Lewis, and as stated, I help Sue out with the Sew, O’Susannah! blog. It’s a labor of love, I can tell you. Sue and I have known each other most of our lives, having grown up in the same town and also being friends with her two sisters, Jane and Margaret. They were sort of the sisters I never had growing up.

I am the daughter of a professional quilter named Betty Alderman. Betty died a year and a half ago but before she did, she had a successful quilt pattern business called, Betty Alderman Designs. Just before she died, I took the business over and am injecting some new life and designs into it. That being said, you would think I am an amazing quilter like she was. Well, I can tell you that isn’t the case.

It’s difficult for me to talk about my life as a quilter without mentioning my life with my mom. I made my first quilt when I was about 13 or 14 years old. It was the early 1970s and I remember sitting at a table in my bedroom, drawing not too accurate squares from a cardboard template on a lot of polyester fabric. It was a simple patchwork of many colored squares. I backed it with a pale yellow sheet and turned it to the front for a binding. I loved that quilt. It was perfect for curling up under on a bed on the porch at our cottage. That’s what that quilt reminds me of – a delightful childhood spent on a bluff on the water.

I made a couple of baby quilts before I was 20 but then didn’t quilt again for a very long time. Meanwhile, my mother, became an amazing quilter. Did I share in her efforts and knowledge – not especially. I was a young mother with a family, working full-time and we weren’t even living in the same state. So, unfortunately, all her knowledge didn’t exactly rub off on me. But she always shared with me – her accomplishments and her friendships.

Fast forward to the 1990s and my parents ended up moving to a house kitty corner from mine. Her pattern business was doing very well and I would often help sending orders out if my parents were out of town (they worked from their basement). As, at that time, technical writing was what I did for a living, mom often had me proof her directions and patterns so I gained an understanding of how the patterns were created. I also got to see what she was working on. I, along with my children AND my husband assisted in stuffing patterns. Anyone who has done this can attest to the monotony of it. But it was good family time. My daughter said it was the first job she had. I think she got paid a few cents for every pattern she stuffed. Now that I am stuffing patterns, my husband doesn’t want anything to do with that part, which I find amusing.

Mom and I collaborated on a booklet of patterns in 1997 called, “A Century of Sunbonnets.” It was a huge success selling thousands of copies. I was hooked but I still wasn’t quilting.

The thing is, as I now venture into designing patterns on a close to full time basis, I realize how much I learned from my mom. I realize I know more about sewing than I thought I did and I know quite a bit about the business side of things as my parents shared a lot of that knowledge with me and of which I had to learn to help them out when they were traveling.

Am I a great quilter? Not yet. But I can tell you that I am striving toward a level that I saw in my mom. I only wish she was still here so I could ask her the bizillion questions that I have. Her voice does sometimes come to me and it is usually in a, “Betsy, rip it out and start over,” or “Be careful with that! You’re going to cut your fingers off!” She took the rotary cutter away from me the first time I used it.

Anyway, enjoy this Double Patch block. I love the fabrics Sue gave me. The alphabet fabric is super cute and I LOVE green and LOVE polka dots – an awesome combination for me.

Enter the Blog Block Giveaway through our Rafflecopter giveaway. Don’t forget to comment on the post.  We’ll be giving away all 12 blocks on May 1, 2014!

Block Blog Giveaway Week#3


Sharon Bristol-jack of all trades, beginner quilting teacher, Jo Morton Club leader and sales clerk

I like to have an adventure once in a while to keep my life interesting…..like sleeping with the Kuna Wali Indians or a 500 mile hike in Spain…something different.  Do you think maybe that I chose these beautifully bold and vivid colors for my Churn Patch block?? And I’ve been quilting before our Bicentennial when there were no rotary cutters!


Don’t forget to comment on the post.  We’ll be giving away all 12 blocks on May 1, 2014 ! Enter the Blog Block Giveaway through our Rafflecopter giveaway.

The Olympic Patchwork Quilt & My Russian Connection

Sue asked me to write a post about the Olympic patchwork quilt that has been readily seen in the Olympic flags and on clothing during the Olympic Games. As I looked a little further into this I found this website that explains the reasons behind this design. (http://www.graphicart-news.com/the-olympic-patchwork-quilt-sochi-2014/ )

In part, the site describes the patchwork selections and the design that reflects the 83 regions of Russia (similar to our states). The site says, “The Olympic patchwork quilt, developed by Bosco’s creative department and given to the Sochi 2014 Organising Committee, will be the official Look of Russia’s first Winter Games.”

The site further says, “Our goal was to represent a diverse range of emotions and feelings, connecting concepts like Motherland, Family, Culture, Time, Olympism, Peace, Nobility, Friends, Memory, Honour, Dreams, Beauty, Freedom, Pride, Warmth, Happiness, Greatness, Reliability, Victory, Creativity, Hospitality, Creation, Future, Russia, Planet Earth.” And yes, the connection to these concepts is much like pieces of individual patchwork sewn together.

The Olympic Patchwork Quilt

The Olympic Patchwork Quilt defining the 83 regions of Russia

So in keeping with the goal of the Olympic patchwork quilt, I am reminded of my own connection to Russian culture, peace, friends, memory, beauty, warmth, happiness, and hospitality, to select just some of these emotions and feelings. And I wanted to share them with you. We would love to hear if you have any connections to Russia. Please comment at will.

For me, these Russian Olympics remind me of a teenage girl who stayed with my family in 1998. Her name was Yuliya Semyonova. We called her Yuli (Yooli). She was a Rotary Exchange student from Novgorod, Russia. Novgorod is also a sister city to Rochester, NY, near where I live. There are two Novgorods in Russia. One is Velikiy Novgorod and the other is Nizhny Novgorod, which if I remember correctly means “New” Novgorod. Yuli was from Velikiy Novgorod which, according to Wikipedia is, “one of the oldest centers of Russian civilization.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novgorod_Oblast#Geography)  Yuli’s Novgorod would be found in the green area of the patchwork.

Based on the idea behind the patchwork representing the numerous historical and cultural regions of Russia, I wondered if Novgorod (Velikiy) had any sort of art or textile heritage. I found that Yuli’s Novgorod is more noted for industry and chemical product production and things of that nature. However, Novgorod is loaded with cathedrals, almost half of their residents are Russian Orthodox. There are centuries-old paintings in the churches.

When Yuli came to us she brought my mother some linens of which I have photographed here and which were saved. Now that I have brought them out, perhaps we will use them. Yuli also brought us these two small paintings which are loved by us. I have often thought of their creators and wonder if they are still creating and if their lives are easier.  I have included pictures of these little pieces of art for you to see.

Russian Table Linens from Novgorod Russia, circa 1998

These are the table linens Yuli brought to my mother from Novgorod, Russia in 1998. Notice the Cyrillic lettering. I attempted the alphabet at one time but never kept at it enough to learn it. Yuli always said English was easier than Russian.

Russian Linens Box Back

This is the back of the box that the linens form Yuli came in. If any of you know Russian you can probably get additional information from this label and perhaps the cost.

A Novgorod, Russia Church Painting

This is a small painting that Yuli brought us from Novgorod Russia in 1998. I believe it is the image of a local church or cathedral.

An Amber and Paint Painting, Idylic Russian Scene

The leaves on the tree in this painting that Yuli brought us is dimensional with what I would call amber chips. Novgorod, Russia is similar in climate to where I live in Palmyra, NY, USA. I believe we are at a similar longitude and latitude. This painting depicts a home and birch trees.

One of my favorite memories was attending a Russian Orthodox Christmas service in Rochester on the evening of January 6, much like our Christmas Eve celebration, with January 7th being much like our Christmas day. That evening of January 6th I took Yuli and Olga, another exchange student from Russia from the next town over, to this service. It was beautiful and rich in ceremony, incense, architecture and candlelight. The girls had worried beforehand about what to wear on their heads. They found scarves and were then appropriately dressed. They were nervous and giddy at this holiday gathering, a true connection to their homeland and a place where they could hear their native tongue spoken.

There was also a different side of Russia, one that we in the USA are probably not too familiar with. That is of Russia’s economic pulse, something I believe has changed significantly over the last 15+ years since Yuli was with us. After Yuli returned to Novgorod, we sent her small tokens as gifts. Sending her a US $20 bill equaled close to what her father earned in a month. We sent Yuli a bracelet for Christmas one year and she said it was important that we tape anything we sent really well as their postal workers were known for thievery and often worked off bribes. If items were taped well, the workers seemed to leave things alone. But it is important to understand that Russia was in somewhat of a political and economic upheaval in the 1990s. We knew that Yuli was returning to a turbulent Russia and we also knew she was concerned for her father. There is an interesting website about these times in Russia and can be found here: http://englishrussia.com/2011/06/14/life-of-russia-of-the-mid-1990s/2/. It is a site filled with pictures.

While most of my thoughts of Russia are with Yuli, I also know of Russia through a fraction of their literature as I studied some in college. Reading the poetry of Anna Akhmatova (Yuli introduced me to her) and stories by Anton Chekhov and Nikolai Gogol further defined my idea of who the Russians were.  Russian literature is just one more piece of the patchwork reflected in those flags.

So, probably unlike many of you, when I see the patchwork flags and I see the terrain of Russia and the Black Sea where Yuli said many Russians spent their holidays, I think of the young girl who came to stay with us from half a world away…a smart girl (especially in math) who was afraid of not being successful in school and going home a failure to her hometown. She was a girl who found a world of plenty in our small hometown, a girl who loved to eat oranges and who went shopping for a prom dress, not to go to the prom but to stuff into her suitcase as a prized possession to take home with her. She was a girl who had no siblings, whose parents spoke no English, who lived in an apartment, who had never used a vegetable peeler but who always cut and used vegetables and who added dill pickles to cook with her meat. (We gave both Yuli and Olga vegetable peelers to take home with them.)

We lost track of Yuli. The last we knew she had moved to Moscow with a disc jockey boyfriend.  We could not communicate with her parents so our link has been lost. We always hoped that some day she would try to find us. We live in the same town so maybe someday.

So when I see those patchwork flags I think of Yuli, the beautiful and historic country of Russia and of a young girl who I hope has matured into a happy and healthy young woman and who is perhaps an attorney as that is what her goal was back then. I’m glad that with the Olympics this year there is a large population of people who will see Russia in a new light and know that their culture is more than what you see on the news each night. And perhaps that will make for just a little more peace in the world. When I see the Olympics I think of Yuli and I know how proud she would be. She loved her country.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s St. Valentine’s Day and we love our blog followers. We’re glad you’re here. How do you like these hearts?

Family Album Quilt Hearts BorderBlogPost2_14_2014

Hearts appliqué from Betty Alderman’s Family Album quilt

These hearts were appliquéd into the border of Betty Alderman’s Family Album quilt. I thought they were appropriate to share with you for this Valentine’s Day. Betty was my mom.

Betty’s quilt was one of three album-style quilts she made. Each of her three children has one. This one is mine. Each block has some significance to my mom and her life.

The Family Album quilt was constructed over nearly a decade, from 1989-1997 and was made while she lived in three different states: New York, Arizona, and Ohio. These were also some of her most prolific years as a professional quilter. Mom loved appliqué.

This quilt was made in the Baltimore Album style. Baltimore Album quilts were a genre of quilts made mostly in the mid 1800s and which began in an affluent Baltimore, Maryland in the 1840s and 1850s. Mom’s quilt is similar in style to the Baltimore Album quilts from long ago. The quilts are typically heavy in reds and greens on a white ground. Mom loved these quilts.

Here’s a picture of mom’s Family Album quilt.

Alderman Family Album Quilt by Betty Alderman

Alderman Family Album Quilt by Betty Alderman

So, I have a few questions.

  1. Do you appliqué?
  2. Do you like Baltimore Album quilts?
  3. If you appliqué like this, what are your sources for inspiration and design?

Mom used a number of different things to gather design ideas and to inspire her. One of the things mom did was she bought and sold antique quilts (and collected them!) On very rare occasions she might come across a Baltimore Album quilt. One, from the 1850s, she sold but first created tribute quilt honoring that special quilt. She studied the blocks of the antique quilts, sometimes copying a design or interpreting it into something new. She also studied designs in books and was enamored with folk drawings. Here is picture that I found in her belongings and it’s no surprise to me that there are birds in one of them. They are a common folk motif and mom often added a bird into her designs. This was a lose page in her files so I don’t know the exact source of the page.

Folk Art Motifs

Folk Art Motifs used by Betty Alderman for inspiration in making appliques.

Can’t you just see how these drawings could inspire appliqué designs?

If you are interested in learning more about Baltimore Album quilts, there are a number of good books about them. Two authors of these books are Elly Sienkiewicz and Laurene Sinema, both who were friends of mom. –Betsy

Baltimore Album Quilts: Historic Notes and Antique Patterns, by Elly Sienkiewicz. C&T Publishing, 1990.

Applique! Applique! Applique!, by Laurene Sinema, NTC/Contemporary Publishing Company, 1995.

Block Blog Giveaway-Week 2

Jean Lathrop-Long Arm Quilter & the Big Block Giveaway!


I began quilting in 2004, after retiring from FM Howell & Co in Elmira as Human Resource Manager with 27 years of service.  Learning this new art kept me both busy and broke! The more quilts I made, the more I wanted to make.  We have 7 children, 20 grandchildren and 3 great grandchildren. So the first challenge was to make sure each one had a quilt.  I have met that goal many times over.  Four years ago I was given the opportunity to learn the long arm quilter at O’Susannah’s and found it very rewarding.  So retirement was short lived but I love it.  So you will either find me upstairs at O’Susannah’s or in my sewing room at home!

Don’t forget to enter to win this block and all the others that you’ll be seeing in the 12 weeks of the Big Block Giveaway. Enter here –

Enter the Blog Block Giveaway through our Rafflecopter giveaway.


Of Baskets and Quilts

What better way to celebrate Man Day then with a post about John McGuire, creator extraordinaire.

A fabulous quilt by John McGuire

A fabulous quilt by John McGuire

It’s a rare treat (okay, maybe not as rare as it used to be, still…) when we meet a man who quilts. Our ears perk up a little bit more. We are curious. We are just a little bit awed. We want to look.

Last week I was able to perk up my ears when I talked with John McGuire, a fellow quilter, a customer, and as I found out later, grew up in my hometown. That tidbit aside, I knew a little about John but I wanted to know more about him and share what I learned with you.

John is new to the quilting arena. He’s only been quilting a short, one and one-half years. But, oh, what beauty he has achieved in this short time. John was introduced to quilting by a friend, as many of us were introduced. He was looking for a creative outlet after an accident 11 ½ years earlier left him without the tips of some of his fingers which interrupted his career as a professional basket maker.

A splint basket made by John McGuire using oak and ash

A splint basket made by John McGuire using oak and ash

But for 28 years, John created museum-worthy baskets. He made historically accurate baskets using wood from black and white oaks and hickory trees he cut down himself. Baskets John made were created for Sturbridge Village and Hancock Shaker Village where he also taught and provided public demonstrations and he became a published author on the art of basket making.

Teaching all over the world, John became famous, galleries picked him up and he was able to make a living at a profession he loved – basket making. He says to make a living at your work it is key to get your work out there for people to see and enjoy.

A John McGuire Nantucket-style basket using some cherry, lathe-turned parts

A John McGuire Nantucket-style basket using some cherry, lathe-turned parts

He says, “Don’t keep your work -it needs to be in the public eye to keep your work alive so you can sell them to make a living.”

Like many of us who quilt, we learned or observed the art as children. McGuire collected baskets as a young boy stoking his passion at an early age.

After John’s friend suggested quilting, he thought about it a bit, acknowledging that he had always admired quilts. And that’s when his quiltmaking began in earnest.

Now John is not like many of us. Oh, no. He doesn’t have a stash. Well, okay, he does admit to a small one and it is “color coded…and while it is no way as gigantic as many quilters’ I do get the addiction. When I was teaching I had several hundred coils of hand pounded ash strips…I never knew when I might run out of wood and need it and black ash trees were as special as your quilt shop…few and far between.” Yup. He gets it.

John has no unfinished projects, his workspace is not clogged. No he is not the quilter most of us know. He is a self-proclaimed overachiever who finishes one quilt before he starts another. He stays focused on the quilt he’s working on.

John stated, “Each block in a quilt is a challenge. Make one block at a time and focus to improve the next. As you make blocks you are creating a larger piece of work – the quilt.” Oh, to be that diligent!

Detail of some blocks in one of John’s quilts

Detail of some blocks in one of John’s quilts

Baskets can be rather monochromatic but John says he always liked color but didn’t use it much in basket making. But he does find that the more he works with color his sense of color is enhanced.

The rhythm of quilting, he says, is similar to basket making. It can be colorful. It is creative, a “centering therapy” offering a sense of serenity.

I think that John made his baskets from love and for love. He didn’t really want a satisfaction that comes from someone wanting his work. Instead, he wanted someone to fall in love with the basket itself, not because it was one of his baskets.

What he found as a basket maker is that when you find a designer or designers you like, you’ll stay with them because you like their design, their color, or for some other reason. When asked which fabric designer he likes, he said, “Jo Morton.”

When asked if he thought quilting would hold his interest for the long haul like basket making did, he said, “Yes, if I can stop making mistakes.” Don’t we all wish that!

John finds that men are more involved in quilting because there is less of a stigma – our society has matured…what you do doesn’t make who you are.

John is not looking to make a career out of quilting like he did basket making. He finds that it is the creative process that he loves and that he plans to continue, perfecting each design, each stitch and each seam as he sews along.