It’s Labor Day weekend and even though we officially have 3 more weeks of summer to come, it feels like it’s time to wrap up the summer months and re-set for the upcoming fall— at least for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.

I narrowed this post down to a few things that I’ve been working on and can check off my “to do” list: nailing down my 2018 Maine Quilt retreat schedule; the status of an on-line class; answering other FAQ’s; a couple feed-back requests for you, my readers; and—what I’m sure is foremost in your mind—how did my summer plans from an earlier summer post turn out?

2018 Maine Quilt Retreats

First things first, we’ll take care of the most immediate FAQ: “When will you be posting your 2018 Maine Quilt Retreat dates?” Here you go:

1. April 9-13: Five days at the Old Port Hyatt in Portland, Maine, All Levels, Price $925

2. June 5-8: Four days at the Harpswell Inn in Harpswell, Maine, All Levels, Price $740

3. October 2-5: Four days at the Harpswell Inn in Harpswell, Maine, All Levels, $740

4. October 15-19: Five days at the Old Port Hyatt in Portland, Maine, Advanced Students Only, $925

5. October 22-26: Five days at the Old Port Hyatt in Portland, Maine, All Levels, $925

I promised advance notice before opening these retreats for enrollment, so sign-up will begin on Saturday, October 7, 20179am Eastern time. I’ll be updating as we get closer.

Retreat Descriptions

All Levels: I start each morning with about an hour-long demonstration that will lay out the basics of each step in the fabric collage process, giving you the information you need to start each work day. I will then visit each student in turn to address individual needs and her or his project’s unique challenges. If you haven’t taken a class with me before or would like to have the daily morning demos as refreshers, this class is for you, though any level may sign up.

Advanced Students Only: Dive right in to continue working on an image begun in a previous class, or begin a new one, as I host a retreat for advanced students only. I skip the daily introductory fabric collage demonstrations and focus instead on techniques that can take a project beyond the basics. If you have taken either one longer class (4+ days) or two shorter ones (1-3 days) with me previously you probably qualify. Contact me to discuss if you have any doubts whether this class is right for you.

Retreat fee includes onsite lunches as well as one group dinner. Breakfast is provided by either the B&B or hotel for those who stay there. Additional meals are not covered but can be found at local restaurants. Lodging is also extra with links provided but arranged and paid separately by student. Extended stays for extra vacationing can be requested at each location. Sharing a room is possible—contact me if you are interested in finding a room-mate. Staying at the Harpswell Inn or Hyatt Place Portland-Old Port is lovely and certainly most convenient, but not required.

Cancellation Policy. A non-refundable deposit of $100 will be required upon sign-up. Payment in full is required 4 months before date of class. Refund policy will be described in a follow-up post.

Online Class

A frequent comment comes from those who a trip to Maine is not in the future: “I can’t wait until you offer an on-line class.” Here’s the status of such a class:

All along, Tom (my indispensable co-writer and co-conspirator) and I have felt that we’ve been writing an outline for an on-line class within many of these posts from the very beginning. Almost all the How-To posts deal with one aspect or another of the fabric collage process as I teach it.

With last week’s post Hang it Up: Making Your Art Quilt Art, most of the holes were filled in for an on-line class outline. Which means, essentially, there’s a class hidden within almost two years of posts.

Beginning next week, Tom, a book designer by trade, will start compiling those posts first into a reference list, then into re-formatted and printable pages that can be followed step-by-step in the creation of your own fabric collage quilt. This begins in September, when Tom’s skills as a Maine kayak guide are not as in-demand as they have been this summer. His goal is have something to offer by early October.

There will be a fee for this, probably offered in different levels, topping with a private Facebook group for an on-line classroom atmosphere and feed-back from me. We still have to figure out how that will all work out. Stay tuned.

Other FAQ’s

  • How do you make the eyes look realistic? Top down from the bottom up. I describe the technique for making eyes and other features here: “Eye for an Eye.”
  • What qualifications are needed to attend (a retreat)? A pulse. (Sorry, that was Tom’s attempt at humor.) There are no prerequisites to attend a class. I have novices in each and every class I teach (aside from the Advanced Students Only class above). You and your fabric stash will be welcome.
  • How do you decide what subject to use? Go with your gut. I pay attention to what I’m drawn to instinctively. If you care about it, if you’ve been mulling it over in your head for a few years, a project comes together easier. Then again, it could be a flash of inspiration. If you have a choice to make, sometimes it’s as simple as what’s your best photo to work from? And I wrote a blog on just that subject, “From Photo to Fabric: Choose the Best Shot.”
  • Is that a standard craft tacky glue you are using? It is indeed. I prefer Aileene’s Tacky Glue (original formula), just because. No, actually, I talk about the how tos and why fors of glue here: “Why Glue?”
  • How do you choose fabrics that will work for your subject? You may have noticed a theme here of directing you to existing blog posts for the answers. Here’s a blog post that will help to answer this one: “Choosing Fabric for Fabric Collage.”
  • Do you ever have problems with the glue gumming up your needle? No. I’ll direct you to “Why Glue?” again. I use a light smear of glue, just enough to hold things in place. It doesn’t take much and dries quickly and completely (not “tacky”).
  • I don’t get the applique style that you used in the 80’s. The sheer was put over the raw edges applique pieces? The sheer (tulle) was placed over the entire piece, basted, then quilted. Check out the post here: “To Tulle or Not to Tulle.”
  • May I please share this Facebook post with my quilting group? Of course. That’s what Facebook is all about. The more people my posts reach the better. If you choose to share it on another platform, just be sure that my name stays attached to the post. Also, you should know that I have a private Facebook page for Patreon subscribers of $20 per month or more. On that page students can post their in-progress work for me (and others) to give feedback.

Speaking of feedback…

Feedback and Submission Requests

Time for (optional) homework. Feel free respond to any or all of the questions below in the comments section. Thank you!

1.) Are there any areas of the fabric collage process that you feel I have not covered, or not to the extent or detail that you would like to see?

2.) Living in a “vacation destination” state is lovely, and perfect for setting up my Maine retreats, but there’s plenty of other lovely locations in this world of ours. Any ideas for other Destination Quilt Retreats? Accessibility, workspace, lodging and food all need to be taken into consideration—but have some fun with this.

3.) Eventually another “Finish Line” blog post will get back on the schedule. If you’ve been busy with fabric collage, as a past student of mine, working from a book, or merely just inspired by my work, please send photo(s) of finished work, your name, any associated story, and permission for me to post to this link: Contact Form.

What I (actually) Did on My Summer Vacation

In a mid-July post I anticipated my two month gap between teaching venues. As I’m sure it’s no surprise to you, it went by pretty darn fast. So here’s a rundown:


Here in Maine we had around 60% sun coverage during the solar eclipse on August 21st—and we made the best of it. My sister ordered safety goggles and our small gathering proceeded to look a bit odd, but awed, by the solar crescent. All except my mom, who asked what the big deal was. Our son Sam (now sharing an apartment with friends) arrived with his girlfriend, and our niece Maia brought her boyfriend. A nice little multi-generational moment in time.

One cool thing I learned online was to use a colander to view the eclipse. Note how the holes appear as crescents during the viewing height! A related effect happens to the sunlight filtering through tree leaves, as seen in the video below.

Our usual morning walk to Lookout Point (above) at the end of our road. Not much to look out at on a foggy summer morning. When we have more time, Harpswell has a few trails to explore. A favorite is the Cliff Trail (below). A fun aspect of that trail is the fairy house construction zone—you never know what you’ll see from those little folks.

This time there was additional embellishment on an abandoned woodpecker hole—two poems penned onto the bare wood:

Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing

there is a field. I’ll meet you there.


When the soul lies down in the grass,

the world is too full to talk about.

Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other”

doesn’t make any sense.  —Rumi


As the crickets’ soft autumn hum

is to us

so are we to the trees

as are they

to the rocks and hills.  —Gary Snyder

A walk with my mama at Mitchell Field in Harpswell.

Summer moments with our fur-babies: Djinni, Felix, and Kali.

The solution to “what to do with the not-so-feral-anymore cat” question was to lure him with food to my folks’ house next door. “Cookie” (below) adapted quickly and no longer taunts our pets, as he’s enjoying his new home with my parents.  More and more, day-by-day, he lets himself be patted, held, play with cat toys, nuzzles with my dad, and lounges on their living room floor.

Meanwhile, my niece found an abandoned baby squirrel at her workplace. Of course she brought the bald and blind being home and she and my sister became adoptive parents. “Rudy” has proven himself to be a red squirrel who will soon be gradually released into the wild.

I had my turns as a squirrel aunt, first feeding with a dropper and now pretending to be a human tree as this adorable rodent skitters up and around me at an amazing speed. This past week my mom and I were in charge of feeding time (below)—my mom on one side of the window and me on the enclosed squirrel porch side. Nothing like seeing a squirrel launch at your head.


Tom’s salsa garden has been successful with a couple large batches so far. We consider his salsa a complete dinner when combined with tortilla chips.

My garden, on the other hand, is a milkweed nursery—actually, much of the yard now is. The monarch butterflies were more than appreciative and got busy laying eggs on the leaves.
I got very good at finding the hatched caterpillars and then transferred them to a netted habitat to eat milkweed leaves and grow big and plump. There are 3 caterpillars in this photo—one is above the number 1 on the ruler, another is between the two near the milky spot. See it?
The fattened caterpillars eventually migrate to the top of the enclosure, hang in a “J”, and when you’re not looking, magically turn into a lovely green chrysalis with golden bead markings. After 10 days or so, the chrysalis becomes transparent, allowing you to see the black and orange wings inside. Then “poof”, more magic, there’s a butterfly hanging from the clear shell. The butterflies above were the first of six that hatched and were released yesterday alone.

So far twenty two monarchs—out of the 81 (!) caterpillars I found and am raising— have made it to maturity and flown away on their journeys. It’s become a bit of a summer volunteer job to refresh the milkweed every day. The two below left are little girls, and the one lower right is a boy—note spots along the lines of his lower wing—no spots on the females.


We didn’t make it on an overnight kayak camping adventure as we did last year, but Tom, Sam, and I got in a day trip to Eagle Island, the summertime home of Arctic explorer Admiral Robert Perry. It was a perfect day for the 2-mile paddle to get out there.

Eagle Island slide show:

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Tom found himself on the water quite a bit as we had some beautiful weather this summer for kayak tours—and Tom’s a Maine kayak guide.

Tom’s kayaking slide show:

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My summer reading list included six Stephanie Plum mystery novels by Janet Evanovitch, a “re-read” of Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird as an audio book, and Being Mortal by Atul Gawande (highly recommended for aging issues).

The Business of Art

An afternoon at our Maine Quilt Show in July was more pleasure than business as I met up with a teacher friend I hadn’t seen for awhile. Philippa Naylor traveled from England to teach at the show, and I thoroughly enjoyed going out to dinner with her.  She’s an amazing quilt artist, funny, and seems to be perfect in just about every way. I still like her though. Below, Philippa is pictured with her quilt, Bird by Bird. Yes, named for the book that I’m so fond of too.

I also had a reunion with my Farmer’s Market Series of quilts which are hanging in the cafeteria seating area at Pineland Farms. It’s only about 45 minutes away, but I haven’t seen them in years.

Unfortunately, my new quilt idea has not “materialized” yet—the business of art took front row with the goal of making headway toward an on-line class offering (as discussed earlier in this post). But Djinni cat expresses her pleasure at whatever I may be working on.

I’ll bring this post to a close with an interview by my friend, Lisa Redfern. Lisa is a singer songwriter who lives here in Harpswell and produces a series called Gingersnap: A Conversation and a Cookie with a Creative Mainer. She gives everyone the same questions and then films the interviews unrehearsed and unedited. Her easygoing personality makes it all ok. And we eat cookies!

Lisa has also stepped in as an assistant for my business in general and specifically my inadequacies in negotiating social media—so if you follow me on Facebook, you may have her to thank. Here’s Lisa’s Music Facebook page. You can click on the photo below for a direct link to my interview, or through my Facebook Artist page. Thank you, Lisa! And let’s not forget the link for the cookie recipe.



  • Sounds like you’ve had a wonderful summer with family & friends! I am inspired by your milkweed garden. I grew some last summer but really was unable to tend to the plants as I wanted to. Life stuff got in the way. However, I will persevere next spring in the hopes of having a butterfly habitat.
    I enjoy your blog posts and I’m hoping to attend a work shop one of these days!

  • Great review of your summer, Susan! My summer highlight was definitely coming to your workshop in Harpswell and having the opportunity to explore a part of the country I’ve never been to. Was a lovely time in Maine–just beautiful. My llama project is still waiting to be completed, but I look at it every day and I just found out that our local guild is having a special animal exhibit at the Quilters Unlimited show in June, so I’ll definitely have to get it done for that! Take care!

  • Lovely picture of your mom with the bike……a new quilt? I also share my life with a white mini Schnauzer and would like to make an art quilt of him.

  • I am really grateful for your blog posts and all the tips and ideas you’ve shared.

    An idea for a retreat location is Starved Rock Lodge in north central Illinois. It’s about 90 min from airports and right off I-80. Unlike the endless corn and soybean fields that surround it, Starved Rock State Park, on the Illinois River, has dramatic gorges, canyons, waterfalls, hardwood forests filled with hiking trails and a large Lodge equipped for retreats and conferences. I hope you’ll check it out! I live nearby and would be delighted to be of assistance.

  • I enjoyed your summer wrap up post, & upcoming info about on line classes. I just sent in my last payment for a class w/you in Nov at Lake Tahoe, & I may be a teensy biased, but I believe LT is a great destination location! My personal 2nd choices would be either Maui or Kauai, but the logistics of either location would probably be horrendous!

    The flutterbyes are gorgeous! We don’t have many Monarchs here, but we do have beautiful Swallowtails, & HUGE Luna moths that come out at night. The bats get a lot of those. I am a personal slave to a small group of hummingbirds, keeping their feeders clean & full. After being dive bombed a few times, my two dogs know to steer clear of that side of the yard!

    Summer wrap up for us in the West has been more of the same … Wildfires, both man & nature caused. Some of us like to say we have two seasons here … Winter & smoke. But for all our belly-aching abt fire season, it is NOTHING in comparison to what Texas & Louisiana are dealing with Harvey. Nevada hearts are w/TX & LA, sending thoughts, prayers & help their way.

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