Sunday, June 28, 2009

Pretty Little Patterns

These came in the mail last week:

Aren't they cute? They're patterns for little quilts or fabric pictures, one is a bird "pinkeep." All designed by Renee Plains. I have a weakness for little bird applique and as soon as I saw these I really needed to get them. Now I just have to find the time. Found this fat quarter of a little bluebird print I forgot about in my shirtings box, so maybe I'll get motivated.

A couple of months ago I bought these patterns for really cute bags, also by Renee Plains. Hope I can make one of these before summer's over.

My 16-year-old daughter recently showed an interest in making herself a tote bag and so, in the interest of passing on the "sewing legacy," I took her to a quilt shop that had some really modern, cool fabrics, thinking I could entice her into making something, anything, before the urge passed. Here's what she picked out:

But summer means fun, don't you know, and it looks like she's going to be too busy making plans with friends to spend time sewing with Mom!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

How I'm Spending My Summer So Far

Making and quilting trunk show quilts!

I've had a busy time of it this spring and summer and for awhile I was a little behind with everything--too many things came up that needed attention and I did quite a bit of traveling as well. Today (!) I finished the last of 8 quilts I had to make and quilt for trunk show samples to send to quilt shops so that they can display quilts with copies of Remembering Adelia, which came out in March. I did have help with a few of them and that made it so much easier.

I don't send out the original quilts from a book, I take those with me when I lecture. So that means that if shops want to have a trunk show of little quilts from the book, I have to make copies. If I make 2 or 3 sets of the same quilts, then more shops in different parts of the country will be able to display them at the same time and not have to wait months for them to become available.

After researching and writing a book and designing and making the quilts that go in it (along with writing the patterns and drawing the sketches for the illustrations), often the last thing I want to do is make the quilts ALL OVER AGAIN! But authors know that books don't sell themselves and trunk shows give shop customers a chance to see the quilts from the book up close. And even if they're copies, I try hard to match the fabric or colors of the quilts to the originals because that's what quilters like to see.

One of my favorites is the little Tumbling Blocks quilt from Remembering Adelia. This Spring I made 3 (yes, THREE--hand pieced, hand quilted--no wonder I was behind with everything else). But they were so much fun to make and if you haven't hand pieced a quilt yet, try making a little tumbling blocks quilt.

This quilt was inspired by a large Tumbling Blocks quilt made in the 19th century by President Calvin Coolidge when he was about ten. I saw a photo of that quilt in a magazine and knew I wanted to make a little one for myself. If you've been itching to make a tumbling blocks quilt yourself, try this one because it's really a lot of fun AND you can use up a TON of your scraps!

For each little quilt, I cut 168 diamond shapes from 2-inch scrap strips, lining them up with a nifty 60-degree diamond ruler. You can also use a diamond template (one is included in the book).

I found it much easier to sew the "Y" seams, or set-in seams, by hand.

I love this quilt!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Flea Market Saturday

Today was a gorgeous, sunny day, a little hot and humid but a welcome change after the rainstorms and hail we had in the Chicago area yesterday. So my friend Julia and I went to the Antiques Fair/Flea Market in Grayslake.

I was disappointed that there weren't very many quilts for sale at all. The one quilt I really liked was way out of my price range. I love the pattern though and will probably just recreate it with scraps of indigo, red and plaids/checks from my scrapbag.

Julia found this quilt and snapped it up because she loved the bright colors and also the price was so right. AND it matches her outfit perfectly, don't you think? A wonderful quilt to find on a sunny, summer day.

Here are some things I considered buying, but passed up. Don't you just love the ice cream cones border on this one??

And the colors and hand quilting in this Amish quilt?

I could fill up this buggy with doll quilts, LOL.

Love toy sewing machines but already have a few . . . . These were probably overpriced anyway.

I DO collect antique or antique-looking lockets and have fun searching for different ones I don't already have, so finding this one was a particular treat. The locket on the right is one I bought on my LAST trip to the flea market. The book-shaped locket below belonged to my mother and was the one that started my collection years ago.

No wonder I never have any money to buy antique quilts--I go for the truly sentimental thing every time!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

School's Out!

My son arrived home from college a few days ago and said: "Evan's home, so you know it's summer." So true. The house can get pretty quiet when even one member is missing. After a tough sophomore year in high school, my daughter Caitlin is finished too, finally, although she opted to take a summer school course to lighten her schedule in the fall. (Or maybe to avoid getting a job the year she turned 16?? LOL) Two kids and two dogs will make the summer hectic and less conducive to working but I know it will fly by fast and the next 2 summers as well and pretty soon it will be even quieter with just me and my husband (and still the dogs!) so I'm not complaining about the noise just yet.

Here's a quilt I made for Evan the summer before he left for college in 2007. I used 6 1/2" scrap squares with 3 1/4" x 6 1/2" black print sashing strips and scrappy 3 1/4" x 3 1/4" cornerstone squares.

I love this quilt because it's unlike anything I've ever made before--it was all about him and his style, not me and what I like--a challenge. I did manage to throw in a few Civil War reproduction scraps here and there, though, and some blue.

I agonized over the design--what kind of quilt could I possibly make for him that would be quick and easy and hold up to college dorm life and also allow me to use up my scraps? Almost like making a quilt for a Civil War soldier--quick, scrappy and destined to be well used on the college battlefield. I was working on quilts for my book Remembering Adelia as well that summer and my time was at a premium. It ended up being a very non-traditional quilt (for me, at least, using black and brights) in a simple, traditional style for a somewhat artsy kid. He liked it! Some of the large patches have random writings (written in tiny script, with a fine point permanent marker) from me and a few family members: "Love you so much!" "Do well--we're so proud of you!" He's never mentioned them AT ALL so I'm not sure if he even knows they're there. But I know, and it comforts me that he's not only wrapped in the quilt when he's away but the words and thoughts too. Sentimental, I know.

After working hard at school, taking a break and working hard at video games.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Quilters Hall of Fame

I was asked to teach a couple of classes at the Quilters Hall of Fame celebration next month—July 17 and 18—in Marion, IN. I think there are still openings in some of the classes. Here’s a link to the website so you can download a program schedule.

The Quilters Hall of Fame is located in Marie Webster's colonial revival house in Marion, IN where she designed her famous quilts and operated a successful pattern business in the early part of the 20th century. She wrote the first book of quilt history, Quilts: Their Story and How to Make Them (published in 1915) and was known world-wide for her innovative appliqué quilt designs, which appeared in leading magazines like the Ladies Home Journal.

Every year the QHF honors someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the world of quilting. This year the honoree is Merikay Waldvogel, who has written numerous books on quilting history and who also played a big part in the late 20th century quilt history revival. Her latest book is Childhood Treasures: Doll Quilts By and for Children which highlights the wonderful antique doll quilt collection of Mary Ghormley.

The little quilts I’ll be teaching are the Flower Pot Applique from Remembering Adelia, Friendship Star Quilt from Prairie Children and Their Quilts, and the Civil War Nine Patch from American Doll Quilts. Think about joining us--I know I'm going to have fun!

Here's a link to their blog:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

More Puppies, No Quilts

Anyone who knows me knows I LOVE dogs. My daughter, Caitlin, is even more in love with dogs than I am. Although we already had a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier named Rigby she talked us into getting her her very OWN malti-poo puppy (Maltese/poodle mix) last year and named her Ophelia (we call her "Lia"). I call her Princess Lia because--guess what--she's spoiled. But she's still a darling puppy. Rigby is the sweetest, gentlest dog and Lia absolutely terrorizes him (like any little sister) by taking his rawhide bones and hiding them from him. She teases him too. She likes to leave just a tiny bit of food in her bowl every morning, walks away and then watches and waits around the corner for him to come by and taste it. Then she makes a mad dash from across the room and jumps up on him and growls to reprimand him when he does. He falls for it every time, LOL! Silly dogs.

Lia got a much needed haircut/grooming today and while I was waiting I wandered over to the puppy bowl aisle at PetSmart to find a replacement bowl for the one that cracked. Found the perfect bowl on sale for only $1.99. Pink, too! Fit for a princess. Then I bought her a new ball. Wonder if the little scottie quilt is going to end up being hers??

Now you can guess why I picked the quilt I did for our current small quilt group challenge.

Puppies and Quilts

Last year I started a Yahoo group for quilters interested in making small quilts or doll quilts. It's really fun to talk about and see all the different little quilts everyone has made. Every couple of months we have a "challenge" to make a different little quilt (no bigger than 30" x 30"). I pick a block with directions to make it and then give suggestions for making a quilt using that block. The challenge comes from using your creative instincts to come up with a quilt that is uniquely your own. Everyone follows the same guidelines but fabric choices and layout are always different. Seeing what everyone comes up with is the fun part! (SmallQuiltTalk at

The challenge we are working on now was inspired by some little quilts that several people in the group made--little scottie dog quilts. OMG, they're all so cute! Several of us decided we really needed to make one of these too. Not everybody had a pattern to use so I decided to come up with a template so those who wanted to could make their own appliqued dog quilt. The deadline is August. Can't wait to see all the quilts! A couple of the quilts were inspired by this quilt in the book Quick Quilts from Your Scrap Bag published by Leisure Arts in 1999.

I haven't actually had much time lately to get started on or even think about making mine yet, but yesterday, while I was going through a drawer of old fabric looking for something completely different, I came across a yard of this fabric that I bought years ago. I intended to make a little pinafore dress for my daughter when she was younger. Well, I never got around to making it (She's 16 now--sorry, Caitlin) but I'm sure glad I saved it. It has little scottie dogs on it! Who knew? This is definitely going to be perfect for the border. Pretty serendipitous I think.

Here's a trial scottie dog shape--not sure if I should do pink dogs on a dark background or dark on pink backgrounds, maybe both. And if I can find a way to use some of my favorite Civil War reproduction fabrics, you can be sure I will.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Big Quilt or Little Quilt?

Sometimes it works the other way too. I had originally planned to make a LITTLE Orange Peel quilt for Remembering Adelia, but gosh darn it those appliquéd pieces were so much fun to stitch. I became obsessed with making the orange peels from my reproduction scraps—carried the 3-in background squares and the peels with me everywhere I went in case I had a few minutes here and there to sew. Before I knew it, I had made over 90 blocks to piece together into a larger quilt. I'm so glad I did too because the quilt turned out to be my favorite, after obsessing over the border for weeks, and it made it onto the cover of the book (publisher chooses cover design).

I didn't have a lot of experience with appliqué and I wanted to try to make it the way Adelia would have made it—without freezer paper or stitching down the pieces by machine. Just traced the shape, finger pressed the seam under, pinned and then needle turned the edge. It's not perfect, but then, neither are antique quilts if you look at them closely. Of course, the rest of the quilt was pieced by machine (I'm not nuts) and I found a wonderful, talented woman (Dawn) who machine quilted it for me with a simple stipple design.

There's one entry in Adelia's diary where she says she needed to get away from the little girls (her sisters) and ran off into the woods with her sewing and nobody knew where she was. Wonder if she was making an orange peel quilt??

Adelia's daughters (and dog)--late 1800s

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Crazy for Little Quilts

I love making small quilts and if you're reading this and following my blog, you probably do too. Quilts come in all sizes. Small quilts or doll quilts are SO much fun to make and you can actually crank them out pretty quickly in between larger ones. I like to experiment with quilt blocks or styles I wouldn't necessarily try in a large quilt. There's a little Amish quilt and also a crazy quilt in American Doll Quilts, my first book. I may not ever make a large quilt in either one of those styles, but the little ones sure are cute and you can make them in no time at all. Little quilts are also perfect for practicing your hand quilting--it really adds something, I think. Even if the first one you try isn't all that good, keep at it and you'll get better.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Little Beginnings

I started quilting 9 yrs ago by making small quilts or doll quilts for my daughter's dolls. I wasn't very good, but I kept at it because it made me (and Caitlin) feel sooo good to create something small and still be able to call it a quilt. One night before bed we were looking at the infamous American Girl Doll catalog and she asked me, "Why isn't there a quilt for MY doll?" I told her I'd make one for her doll (Felicity) and began a small quilt like those from the 19th century using reproduction fabrics (not the one pictured here). I thought it would be fun to make one for each of the dolls in different styles and began making kits and designing patterns to sell at craft shows. "American Doll Quilts" was born when I accidentally stumbled upon Martingale's website in 2003 and saw that they were accepting submissions for quilting books. Don't know why, but I took the leap. The rest, as they say, is history.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Jumping in

In a very nice way my new friend, Chickenfoot, told me I was slightly behind the times and needed to get started blogging already! Well, it sure seems like I am the only one left in the entire world who doesn’t have a blog. It's been fun reading all of the other quilting blogs out there, so after numerous urgings from well-meaning friends and fans, I'm jumping in . . . . I've always been a little bit of a late bloomer. Stay posted.