Monday, December 28, 2009

Quilt Shop Tours

Well, the frenzy of the holidays is almost over and it's back to the relaxation of quilting for many of us. The gifts are made and the holiday projects finished, right? It's almost a new year and a great time to be inspired. I can't exactly take a breath until my next book is finished--I'll be ready to send it to the publisher next month--but I'm looking forward to getting a start on my Dear Jane quilt and numerous other projects once the book is done.

What's a better way to be inspired than to take a tour of some of my favorite quilt shops? I'm so lucky I live in an area where there are a couple of great shops within a 40-minute drive. Wish they were a just a little closer but many quilters have to drive even farther than that.  So sit back and have some fun--take a little tour and peek inside some of the shops. If you're ever in northern Illinois and need a fabric fix, take some time to stop by some of these great quilt shops. And, just so you know, they all carry my books in case you or a friend need to stock up, LOL.

Quilt Play, located at 62 Center Street  in Grayslake, IL

Quilt Play is in northern Illinois, just south of the Wisconsin border.

Shelley has a great variety of fabrics and is always friendly and eager to help.

Lots of Moda fabric, thirties prints and Civil War repro fabric. Lots of great samples too!

Nice and bright--plenty of pastels for Spring already.


A Touch of Amish--located at 130 Applebee Street in Barrington, Illinois.

Lovely shop in an old house with lots of different rooms.

Yep, that's an Orange Peel sample from Remembering Adelia.

Lots of antique quilts and reproduction samples

A huge Civil War repro section

The shop carries so many shirtings prints! This is one of my favorite quilts made with a number of different shirtings. Isn't it fantastic? I want to use up my scraps and make this one as soon as I'm finished with my next book.

And don't forget Thimbleberries prints as well as a Thimbleberries club

There's even a Remembering Adelia Club--I stopped by a few weeks ago and had a great time visiting with everyone.

Kitty was teaching them how to make the little Prairie Points quilt from Remembering Adelia. She's a great teacher and I always learn a thing or two!

Here are her Scrappy Star blocks from the book in 4 different sizes.

Love the Peony Stars sample, too.


Pieceful Gathering Quilt Shop--located at 106 Northwest Highway (Rt. 14) in Fox River Grove, Illinois

Carrie and Katie are always more than happy to help you find something or introduce you to what's new in the quilting world. They always have a wonderful variety of 19th century prints and great samples made from them.

But watch out! You may get hooked into making little quilts because they have so many cute samples and kits available. Lots of kits for BIG quilts too, don't worry.

And always lots of kits for quilts from my books.

I stopped by a couple of weeks ago and while my friend Julia was hiding out in another room, I sneaked away and bought her Christmas present--a kit for that little blue and red Sawtooth Star quilt you see below, hanging on the wall.

 Oops, here she comes, hide it!

Whew, I'm exhausted, what about you? Nothing like shopping till you drop . . . Hope you had a great time. I think I'm going to make this a regular feature. I visit a lot of shops as I travel throughout the year, so I'll try to remember to bring my camera and post more photos from now on.

I hear complaints from quilters all the time about the great shops that were once near them but are now closed. They need our help more than ever these days, you know. Have you heard about this great plan for helping your local small retail businesses STAY in business? It's called The 3/50 Project. Take a look.

So, if you're able, try to support your local quilt shops this year--buy some fabric, pick up a book or some fat quarters or maybe take a class. What a great New Year's resolution, don't you think? I couldn't do what I do without them, and I'll bet you couldn't either.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.
-Christina Rossetti

"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus."

Merry Christmas and may hope and peace be with you all for the New Year

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Lights

I recently learned that the tradition of putting lights--candles actually--on Christmas trees began in the middle of the 17th century in Germany. The candles were attached to the ends of tree branches with wax and since this was before the invention of electricity, people didn't usually put up their trees until December 24 because of the risk of fire. Did you know that the very first Christmas tree with electric lights (the size of walnuts!) was lit in 1882 by the vice president of the Edison Electric Light Company at his home in New York? 

In 1895, President Grover Cleveland proudly sponsored the first electrically lit Christmas tree in the White House, featuring more than a hundred multicolored lights. By 1900, stores began stringing up Christmas lights behind their windows to attract customers. It wasn't until the 1930s that electric Christmas lights became a popular tradition for Americans to use in decorating. Now it's almost become something of an art form in our society.

Last week we went into the city for dinner and drove past a neighborhood on the north side of Chicago where the houses are lavishly decorated with Christmas lights. We used to take the kids there every year when they were young, play Christmas music in the car and oooh and aaahh over all the displays. This year the kids were busy, but we decided to take a side trip on the way home and drive through the area anyway, for old times' sake. You could tell we were in a recession--there were fewer houses with lights and the ones that did have them were a little less elaborate than usual. But it brought back a lot of memories and reminded me of how much I loved Christmas lights growing up.

The treehouse below contained moving elves, snowmen and Mr & Mrs Santa, waving

Nothing like Christmas lights to really get you into the spirit of things.

That thing on the right is a revolving carousel with reindeer.

Keep in mind I was in a moving car. . . .

We have a few lights at our house--not a lot and not lavish, but I'm pretty grateful I was able to convince my husband to put  up any at all, LOL. They're for the kids, you know . . . .

Helps get my daughter into the mood to do some baking!

Have a deLIGHTful Christmas!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas Memories

I love Christmas. I love the craziness, the shopping, the decorating, the cooking, and most of all the snow if we're lucky. When I was a little kid I knew that, once it began to snow, Christmas couldn't be too far away, and I haven't forgotten. I probably wouldn't be able to live in a warm climate all year round.  I have some wonderful memories of Christmases when I was growing up in Chicago. Back then there were no sold out, hard-to-find toys. More likely than not it was just hard to find the money for the toys we wanted. But I almost always got the stuff I put on my list for Santa.

I shopped a little yesterday and when I shop for presents for my kids I always get nostalgic. They're way too old for toys now, except for the expensive electronic kind, and I miss the days of buying them that one special toy that would make their eyes light up on Christmas morning.

Just about every year when I was growing up there was a doll under the tree for me at Christmas. My mom always knew exactly what I wanted and now I know she probably worked hard to be able to afford them. She loved Christmas and I think she probably loved dolls too. The most memorable ones: Tiny Tears, Miss Revlon, Ginny, Shirley Temple, Chatty Cathy, Patty Playpal and, of course, who can forget Barbie and all of her exquisite outfits and accessories? Oh, the magic of Christmas.

Chatty Cathy and Barbie are the only ones that are left. They both still look pretty good for 50.

I tried to do the same for my kids when they were young. I hoped that the dolls I bought for my daughter would create some of the same magic as mine did  for me when I was growing up. The American Girl dolls came close but it didn't take me long to figure out that nothing could ever really compete with puppies. It became obvious that, for her, stuffed dogs were the only toys that created magic. And then real puppies. For my son it was dinosaurs, trains (can you say Thomas?) and Legos--the more the merrier. Later, as a teenager, money always seemed to do the trick.

Our first dog, Bailey, an Old English Sheepdog


Nope, he didn't spend it on a haircut . . .  .

In addition to the dolls, one year I got a pastel painted metal doll cradle that I loved for my baby dolls and then "Chatty Cathy." I can't remember what I used for a blanket, but I do know it wasn't a doll quilt. When I graduated to Barbies, one year one of my sisters bought me a little pink frilly canopied Barbie bed with a matching pink satin blanket and pillow for Christmas. My sister Audrey was more than a few years older than me (so she should have known better) and too old to play with dolls herself, but she was so excited and so in love with that little bed that a week before Christmas she couldn't contain herself any longer and took me into her closet where it was hidden, unwrapped. She let me look in the box and then let me play with it for a few minutes every day after that while my mom was at work. Shhh, don't tell Mom! Boy, did I have to act surprised when I opened presents that Christmas! Much, much later, when I grew up, I loved going into quilt shops and was always drawn to the little antique doll beds displayed with little quilts. Then my daughter was born, and yippee--all of a sudden I had permission to play with dolls and doll beds again.

You gotta love Hallmark for bringing many of our childhood dreams back to life.

I read a blog where this woman said that when she was little she wanted a Chatty Cathy doll for Christmas SO BAD but her mom said it was too expensive and, besides, she was ten--too old to play with dolls--and so she never got it. Then she grew up and along came EBAY. She bought her first doll from her childhood a few years ago and said now she has FIVE! Wonder if her mom is still alive and what she thinks, LOL.

Some other Christmas memories:
  • The year we had a silver aluminum tree with shiny blue ornaments
  • Bubble Lights
  • Going through the Sears Christmas catalog over and over again, picking out toys. Didn't they call it the Wish Book?
  • Driving around to see the houses with lights on Candy Cane Lane
  • Taking the "L" downtown to see the Christmas window decorations at the old Marshall Field's store on State Street in Chicago, invariably on the coldest night of the year
  • Taking my kids to see the same windows many years later, standing in line for over an hour to see Santa and then another hour waiting to have lunch at the Walnut Room under the giant 3-story Christmas Tree in Marshall Field's. My daughter Caitlin screaming and crying at finally seeing Santa up close (those were not happy tears)
  • Alvin and the Chipmunks the FIRST time around
  • Glass Wax Christmas stencil pictures my mom painted on the windows
  • The Andy Williams Christmas Show
  • Metal roller skates (with a key you wore around your neck, remember?). They were so heavy you could almost kill a kid if you weren't careful swinging them around. Who needed a Red Ryder BB gun to shoot your eye out when you had those things?
This year I vowed to cut back on excess--overspending for one--and also on spending excessive time stressed out about cooking, cleaning, decorating. That means less cooking, more takeout or quick meals sometimes, to make it easier to enjoy my kids while they're home and out of school and also to have time to share and visit with friends and family--what Christmas should be all about anyway. And just in case you need any reminders about the  true meaning of Christmas, I love how Linus explained it to Charlie Brown in  "A Charlie Brown Christmas:"

"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people . . .  "

Merry Christmas!