Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nothing Too Quilty Going On

I'd love to show you all the great projects and fabulous quilts I have been working on since the book was finished and turned in. But I've been busy with life and other things and I'm also guilty of taking a break after working so furiously and so there hasn't been too much quilting going on these days. Oh, I appliqued another Dear Jane block in the car on the drive to take my son back to school last Sunday (my husband drove), but that's it.

I've also been working with my technical editor who's cleaning up the manuscript and patterns in my book so that all of you can make the quilts without any mistakes in the directions. Then she'll send the pages back to me for a revision/review. It will go through several edits before we see the page proofs sometime this summer--the final pages before printing.

I've been working on some boring but necessary things like collecting permissions for the photos and quotes and also documenting the sources of the quotes as well as hunting for and getting together some antique photos and other 19th century artifacts and newspaper clippings (this part is not so boring!). This is for the design department at Martingale & Co. so they can use them in the design of the book pages and as props for some of the photos of the quilts.

Newspaper ad from the 1800s

It's sort of difficult not to be involved in this process at all--I turn quilts and stuff in and then sit back and wait. I'm always pleasantly surprised to see how the book turns out, how the publisher makes my ideas come to life. The waiting  is hard for me too, trust me. But at least I know what's going to be in it so I do have that advantage. Sometimes I can't remember what the quilts look like and it's always fun to get them back months later, after they take photos.

In the meantime I  told you I was on the road again and so here are a couple of photos from two of my recent lectures in Illinois. It's so much fun to travel around and meet some of you! Look closely, maybe you'll see yourselves!

March is still pretty dreary in northern Illinois . . . and it was still really really cold and windy as of last week.

I love waiting for everyone to come in  and browsing through the crowd . . . Each guild has it's own personality. Will they like my little quilts?? I haven't had a heckler yet . . .

Nice to see a big crowd--you never know. I remember one time last year I had scheduled a lecture in mid-January and the temperature was -15 degrees without the wind chill. Only about 1/2 the guild braved the cold and came out to hear me speak that night.

Before I began, at my suggestion, the lights were turned out so everyone could see my PowerPoint presentation a little better.

The program was in a different location this time and my "hosts" weren't aware that the new building had energy saving lights. When they were turned off, they wouldn't go back on again. Oh no! My fault for making them turn the lights off! We were all worried that no one would be able to see my quilts. Luckily, by the time I was finished they were back on. Whew!

That's me up there, in black, in the center. 

The next week I drove to DeKalb, IL for a program and workshop. The corn belt.

Smaller crowd but fun ladies with lots of great stories! I get to see THEIR show & tell before they get to see MY show & tell.

Quilters setting up for the workshop to make the little Bear's Paw quilt from Prairie Children & Their Quilts.
Darn, I forgot to take pictures of their finished tops. Here's mine.


After the workshop, I visited a wonderful quilt shop that was nearby--Tammy Tadd Designs in Sycamore, Illinois.


Mostly brights and modern fabrics. I picked up some wonderful little bundles of pastel plaids and florals to go with my recently purchased sweet polka dot fat quarters for a little Springtime project.

Not my usual style, but I sure love these old-fashioned pastel prints. So romantic.

I'm a sucker for anything containing fabric that's wrapped up and tied with a pretty bow!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Two-Color Quilts

Even though I love scrappy quilts the best, with their wide variety of prints, lately I've become fascinated with two-color quilts. Hard to believe, huh? I was recently drawn to one in particular I saw in a magazine that had a white background with blue baskets. We usually think of two-color quilts as being made from white fabric combined with another color--red and white or blue and white being the most popular. In antique quilts, most often the color was a solid instead of a print or looked like a solid from a distance.

My friend Julia is lucky enough to have a couple of  antique quilts in her family that are two-color quilts and I wanted to show you photos. Don't you love them? Especially the redwork.This quilt is dated 1914 and labelled "From Mother." Quite a lot of work went into that embroidery.

If you look closely at the quilting on this one you can see that it's quilted with an orange peel design (on the left side). My next book will have a little quilt that I quilted with an orange peel motif in the blocks.

I made a little blue and white quilt that appeared in my first book, American Doll Quilts, using several different indigo prints and a variety of shirtings prints. I get more comments on this little quilt than you can imagine. I used blue thread and a decorative stitch on my sewing machine in the border as a fancy touch. In the 19th century, sometimes these blue and white quilts were made as heirlooms and for a special occasion--a birth, wedding or anniversary.


There are a few reasons blue and white quilts were popular in the past. Indigo was a colorfast dye and didn't fade when washed. Plus, indigo was widely available, making it likely that more women had access to this color of fabric. I like to think that the women who quilted around then also just had good taste because blue is such a pretty color anyway. Some historians also think that another reason blue and white quilts were so popular around the turn of the last century or slightly before was because those were the colors of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, which was an extremely popular and important reform movement for women at the time. Many Drunkard's Path quilts from the time period were done in blue and white. I've included a scrappy little blue and white quilt in my next book too, yay! You'll get to see it soon!

Two-color quilts were also  made with 2 colors long ago, not just white and one other color. Pink and indigo blue seems to have been a favorite combination because I've seen quite a few of these.


Not sure if these count because the blue print below contains a little white, but I've actually made a few of this two-color kind of quilt myself:



That's the great thing about making small quilts--you can try just about any style you like without expending a lot of energy, time or fabric. Experiment and who knows, maybe you'll find out you like a certain block or style so much you'll go on to make a bigger version, a real quilt. I'm determined to make an Irish chain quilt using blue prints and shirtings someday. Won't that be fun!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Clean-Up Week

Guess what I'm doing for National Quilting Day? No, not quilting or designing--cleaning. Yep, cleaning.

My son is coming home for Spring Break today and I need to make room for the mess he's probably going to bring with him. Better to start out clean so it doesn't get too overwhelming. Then, when it's done, it'll be done, and I'll have more time to play. When I was a kid in public school, Spring Break was always called Clean-up Week, so it's fitting. I've been so busy lately that I never helped get his room into shape after he left the last time, like I promised. A couple of his things need mending and maybe I’ll get to it before he arrives today, at the last minute. Hey, does that count as quilting? Didn’t think so.

My husband drove up to get my son this morning (in the snow, can you believe it? It's March.) and I get to stay home and clean. So I brought out some of  my favorite cleaning supplies--miracle cloths (lots of them), a feather duster, my Bona mop for the hardwood floors, and Zud, a good start. I'm looking at them now. I'll get going soon, right after I finish this, I promise.

When I woke up this morning, the sink was shining clean and that always makes me feel good, like I've actually accomplished something. Sometimes a clean sink just does it for me. That's a trick I learned  from Flylady and every now and then I go back to her for help. 

I love my sink. The divider is really low so you can easily clean large pans or cookie sheets.

I'll finally clean off the kitchen island too and organize some of my quilting stuff. I was too busy with other things this week to take care of it much. I love to spread out stuff on the island for cutting and organizing because it's a great height and close to my sewing area but then I get lazy and don't put everything away like I should. And papers and magazines get out of control everywhere else. Years ago, when I worked in an office I had a really neat, clean desk, honest.

There'll be laundry today too. I don’t believe my son actually does much laundry while he's at school, as awful as that sounds. I hear that he sometimes goes to Target for underwear when he runs out instead. So there'll be laundry and lots of it. And, good mom that I am, I'll probably help. He deserves a break—he's been working hard and getting really good grades, so I can’t complain. Also, he'll actually manage to graduate in 4 years, not 5 or 6, always the fear, so we really appreciate that.

I was working furiously on the book while he was home during Winter break and felt a little guilty that I didn't spend as much time with him as I would have liked—I still had to work even though he was home. Not that he chose to spend THAT much with us anyway, but every now and then when a friend was busy and he had some free time, I had to say no, I had a schedule to keep to and I couldn't just drop everything when I was in the middle of a quilt or had a chapter to finish. Sorry. Dad had to work and so did I, even though I was at home and it didn't look like I was working, looked like I was "just sewing."

Having kids means not always having all the time I’d like to spend on quilting. And even though the projects I make for my books are fun, they're still for work. Sometimes I really want to make something different, maybe a project or two designed by someone else that I see in a book or magazine, but don't always have time. The hard thing is juggling everything I want to do with everything I NEED to do, but it's the same with everyone else I guess. We all have our choices about the things we make and the time involved and does it take time away from family? In the end I'm really lucky to be able to call this work because I love it. Life's a tradeoff.

So I'm thankful my son wants to come home, even if it’s not exactly to see US. Last year he took a road trip during break and we didn't see him at all. I have more time now and perhaps this week he'll pencil us in for a lunch or dinner or maybe a movie or two if we're lucky. I promised him we'd go through my old record albums I saved from the sixties--I hear kids are going back to turntables and albums.

At the end of last summer he said he was anxious to get back home. I was confused until I realized he meant HIS home—college. Sad but true, he's all but gone and coming home now is just a visit. According to the census, he doesn’t even live here—the form told us to exclude anyone living away at college so they don't get counted twice. And, before you know it, my daughter will be gone too. Mixed emotions for sure, but ahhh, think of the quality quilting time I’ll have then . . . 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the Road Again

My book is finished and I got a GPS last Christmas so I can get just about anywhere now! I know this is sort of late notice (I know, I know, I should have posted this before), but I wanted to remind anyone who's interested that I will be speaking to the Pride of the Prairie Quilters this Thursday, March 18, in Naperville, IL.  That's tomorrow. I'll be showing my quilts, selling books and also signing books. I'd love to meet some of you so come on over. Bring cookies.


"Trunk" show

I think it should be fun, although last time I lectured, right after they turned out the lights for my PowerPoint presentation, I swear I saw a couple of you dozing in the front row. . . . So try to take your naps before you arrive you guys so you don't miss anything good.

Next week, March 25, I will be taking the show to the DeKalb County Quilters in DeKalb, IL. Mark your calendars.


Then Wisconsin in April.

I usually try to update the list of appearances on my website   http://www.countrylanequilts.com/  as often as I remember, so you can also check there periodically. I haven't listed the ones for next year yet but I think I'm going to Iowa a few times. Hope I can see some of you!   


Monday, March 15, 2010

Quilters' Survey

According to a recent survey I read in a quilting magazine, quite a few Baby Boomer quilters today do NOT want to hand piece and do NOT like traditional patterns or EASY patterns. Boy, am I out of the loop if that's the case.

The article said that quilters today are interested in complex designs, longarm quilting, and things like more quilting-related travel. Oh, and buying fabric of course. Although I do hear many say that they are trying to use more fabric from their collection these days.

Overall, quilting has now really become more of an art form than it ever was before. Quilters no longer just make quilts that belong only on the bed or to keep families warm--they're being used for decorating more and also more as a creative outlet for women, which is great. And quilting is also leading women to experiment in other artsy arenas--mixed media, paper arts and fashion. Younger quilters are pushing the trend to modern, urban design. And that's the exciting part that I love--that all of this has opened doors for women to find creative outlets and given them permission to play again.

What about some of the antique Amish quilts with their bold colors? What category do they fall into? Aren't some of them the "artsiest" quilts ever?

This one was made early in the 20th century.

Quilters are also very interested in tools to make quilting easier and everywhere you look there's something new out there to help you get your quilts done faster. Working on my Dear Jane quilt has made me slow down and appreciate the time that quilters used to spend on their quilts long ago. How did they find the time in their busy lives? We quilters complain that we have no time--what must it have been like to quilt 150 years ago? Also, can you imagine quilting without all of the basic tools we have today?

And so my question is: where do I fit in? Have we lost any of the joy in quilting if we're just trying to get them done faster and faster and then move on to the next one? What about the process? Maybe I need to time travel back to the 1800s and just stay there . . . . I can think of a few people who'd be overjoyed at the thought of that. I actually LIKE to hand piece and hand quilt and take my time on a project, not rush to get it done, although when you're making many many projects for a book, some rushing to complete them is inevitable.

But I think we probably all agree that quilting means different things to different people and that's exactly why we love it, isn't it? The idea that quilting in some way helps us express our individuality. The line between art and craft becomes blurred. Is this a quilt? Maybe not, but it's fun to look at and see how much creativity went into its design.

The survey did say that quilters are leaning toward making more small quilts, which is a relief. Maybe those of us who like little quilts are on to something after all?

It's kind of fun, watching where quilting is going and being touched by it all. But for now, I'm not ready to jump on the trend train. This is as modern and trendy as I ever get:

I'll think I'll just stick with my own comfort level and sew what makes me happy--traditional little quilts that tug at my heart and bring a smile to my face.

What about you?