Monday, August 30, 2010

Walking in an English Garden, Sort of

My husband and I can't afford a trip to England right now and so I have to compensate by bringing England to us. We had a day here in the Midwest recently that wasn't too hot - perfect for walking through the Botanic Garden, which is just a few minutes' drive from our house. One of my favorite spots there is the English Walled Garden. A serene and peaceful haven - and, best of all, there were not very many people visiting that day. One lady followed me about a bit, watching as I skulked around with my camera and tried to make sure I got pictures of everything. "Did you get this??" "Go over there - it's beautiful!" LOL. People are funny.

I took numerous photos of this lovely blue gate. It matches the shutters on my house . . .

English Meadow

I love this place! Very relaxing. It's like a little piece of England here in the States.

My own garden is looking kind of raggedy now - I wonder if next time they would let me bring my English Rose dishes so I could sit down and have myself a spot of tea!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Never Enough Hours in the Day

Sometimes I shake my head  at  my  kids when they say they're bored. When I was young and said the same thing, my mother used to tell me: "Only boring  people get bored."  So I grew up determined NOT to be bored, lest someone think me boring. When I worked full-time in an office while I was pregnant with my son, an older co-worker looked at me one day and smiled and said, "You'll never be bored again . . . ." Silly, I had no idea she meant I'd never have the time or leisure to be bored again.

If you're like me, you have your fingers in a few too many creative pots--you're not only a quilter, but you also crochet, knit, do needlework or paint, write, etc. There are so many projects I want to make, so many new hobbies I'd like to begin, so many ideas for books to write, so many quilts to finish. Many of us complain about having too many unfinished projects but aren't we all just a little lucky that we're creative enough to have so many projects we want to complete? Finding the time to finish what I start  is challenging for me most days. But since I started quilting I really got in touch with my creative self and I can honestly say I'm never bored. Quilting will do that for you.

After all these years I'm still learning to come to grips with the fact that there are just not enough hours in the day to do all the things I love . . . and still balance family, friends, work and hobbies. And also cook and clean and garden and exercise and just plain take care of myself and those I love. How do so many of you have time to make all the beautiful quilts and crafts you make?

I rarely become bored with quilting but sometimes I become a little too stressed about the "work" and that takes away from the creating, so then I need a break. I've been working hard on the Doll Quilt Club lately, trying to get everything done in time. I hope you all like the new pattern, which should be arriving at your doors soon. After I mailed them out yesterday, instead of jumping right into the next one, I decided I needed a break and pulled out my bead box. I'll start in on # 4 just as soon as I make myself something pretty to wear . . .

Making jewelry is often just as relaxing as quilting I've found. My bead collection is not quite as large as my fabric collection and the beads don't take up as much space, thank goodness. Playing with beads takes me back to my Crayola days. I remember taking the crayons out and drawing with them, one at a time, or sometimes two at a time, over and over, stimulated by the colors. Like playing with fabric, just a great creative outlet. And if you actually get to wear the things you've made, it makes you feel even better!

A good friend taught me to make jewelry after I admired some of her handmade pieces. One day she pulled out her "bead cart" that was hidden away in the closet and showed me all of her various beads and the necklaces and bracelets she'd made from them over the years.  Then she said, "Shhh. My husband has no idea." A closet bead-aholic after my own heart!

I have to buy countless boxes of of these candies just to get the tins so I have someplace to put the beads you know . . . .


If you love quilting and playing with color and haven't tried making jewelry yet, I can tell you it's extremely  relaxing and great creative fun! 

I made a scrappy necklace yesterday, just for myself. Like my quilts, it has all the colors I love!

I spotted someone wearing one like it on TV last week  as I was flipping through the channels and hid it in the back of my head until I had some free time. Can't remember the show, just wanted the simple beaded necklace she was wearing.

Then I decided I needed to display it with some of the others I made so I could see them, instead of keeping them hidden in a drawer. This little birds on a branch decorative hook is perfect. I bought it a few years ago because it was so sweet and haven't been able to find a good place for it until now. I saw this in a decorating book once . . . Wonder if my husband will notice it on the bedroom wall??

Funny, but now both of my kids are taking Drawing in school this semester - one in high school and the other in college. And I didn't even suggest it, I swear. I'm happy they're doing something creative for fun and I hope they find that they never become bored doing creative things. Of course, if it turns out they do, there's always a puppy to play with. You're never really bored when you have a puppy. Trust me.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Eat, Pray . . . Quilt

I haven't read the book, nor seen the movie, although I probably will - who doesn't love Julia Roberts? Everyone seems to have an opinion, though. I've been a little busy lately so I'm still on the fence about whether I should take the time to read it. I know people who absolutely LOVED this book and others who claim it's self-indulgent drivel. By a rich lady no less. I have a blog so I know all about self-indulgent drivel, LOL. Chances are good I'd love it.

If you haven't heard, the bestselling book, Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert, is about a woman who is desperately unhappy with her life and decides to take a yearlong journey around the world to find personal and spiritual fulfillment. It's been touted as great for it's honesty and enlightenment. Oprah endorsed it. It's also been slammed for the author's self-absorption and superficiality.

I haven't been in the author's shoes. Or even close. I've had my own struggles over time, however, and most of you have had them too, I'll bet. Having kids just doesn't allow you to become too self-absorbed, LOL. And what I know is this - that when things get tough, quilters know that they don't have to travel the world to escape - quilting takes them on a journey right where they are.

In addition to tough, our lives get so busy at times - we become slaves to the calendar, e-mail, errands, traffic, the TV, our kids. Most of us share this though - quilting is the thing we've found that brings us back. Sometimes we need to be reminded of that. Take a breath, steal a few minutes, make a small project.

And, like the author says - eat some good food, too. No need to travel far and wide for excellent food, though. Proof: I made a mean Beef Stroganoff in my very own kitchen last night! Indulge in some chocolate. Take a walk in nature.

There's a Botanic Garden with waterfalls and a Japanese garden a few minutes from where I live. I walk there sometimes if it's not too hot outside. I'm thinking I should bring some quilting the next time I go and just stop and relax after the walk.

No time for a quilt? Here's a pincushion that will take you all of a 1/2 hour to make: Cut 1-inch scrap strips and sew together. Trim to a 3 1/2"  x 4 1/2 " rectangle. Sew some decorative stitches along the seams with colorful thread. Cut a piece of fabric the same size for the back. Right sides together, stitch 1/4 inch all around, leaving an opening. Turn right side out, stuff, and sew the opening shut. So cute. Therapy, I call it.

Right now I'm in the process of hand quilting the next quilt for the American Schoolgirl Club - "Clarissa's Garden." Oh my, you're going to love it. (Yes, I know, I'm behind, please forgive me. You WILL get your patterns later this month, I promise.) When I quilt without watching TV, I'm oblivious to time or space - my mind quiets and my focus turns inward. If I have a question, sometimes it gets answered while I'm quilting. If I'm upset, calmness returns after a bit.

Do we need to go to a mountain in Tibet to find peace? Maybe not. Confucius said: "No matter where you go, there you are." The spiritual journey is usually a journey within ourselves, no escaping that. I don't feel like I need to go anywhere to find a balance - I just quilt.

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's Almost a Book!

I like to compare writing a book to giving birth - with a much longer gestation period than I'm used to. Also, not quite as painful but a lot of hard work for sure and the same kind of exhilaration is there when it's finished. There's nothing like seeing your words in print and your quilts in photos. My new book will come out in January and while it seems a bit early to start promoting it, guess what? I was browsing yesterday and discovered that you can see a preview there. If they're publicizing it, I guess I can finally talk about it myself. I thought, wouldn't it be terrible if someone else stumbled upon it and beat me to the punch and announced the title for me? So here you go, check it out:

Woohoo! This is very exciting! If you've been following my blog from the beginning, you may remember that shortly after I started blogging I announced that I had another book in the works. Seems like years, doesn't it?? Actually, that was over a year ago and it will be another long 4-5 months until we have it in our hands. About 18 months from conception to publication. Whew! Same as for a baby elephant and a little more than for a killer whale.

Those of you in my Yahoo group will be happy to see that the group Friendship Album quilt made it to the cover! If you use a magnifying glass you may be able to see the signatures of those who participated and made blocks, which I then put together into a quilt. Very cool. It was fun researching and writing about women's sewing experiences during the Civil War and this quilt project fit right in.

The book is not even printed up yet so don't e-mail me for a copy. And, just so you know, I'll be taking pre-orders for signed books on my website in a bit, same as I did for Remembering Adelia. If, when I buy my books, they arrive a little early, then yours may too.  If you're NOT interested in a signed book (and the shipping cost), ask your local quilt shop about it in November or December - it's still a little early now but some of them will be taking pre-orders as we get closer to January. They appreciate knowing how many to order ahead of time.

Yes, it's almost a book - finally!

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Quilts from Old

I told my husband it seemed like I had no fun at all this summer, being sick, as well as being stressed out by my daughter and her health issues, trying to catch up with work, i.e., the final revision on my next book, and designing, writing patterns and finishing the quilts for my American Schoolgirl Club after missing quite a few weeks.

Some of it was fun stuff, but work nonetheless, and I do stress out if I miss deadlines, something my Dr told me to try to avoid (stress, not deadlines). So going to one of my favorite quilt shows this past weekend, run by a local quilt shop, was just what I needed. Carrie and Katie at Pieceful Gathering in Fox River Grove, Illinois, use antique quilts for their inspiration in designing new patterns and fabric. Their quilt show (showcasing quilts made in their classes) is just lovely and full of inspiration, and so is the shop.

Many of the quilts displayed were very antique-looking and used reproduction fabrics, my favorite, so you can see why I was excited to see all of the quilts made by so many talented Illinois quilters. I would have liked to post photos of so many more, but there were almost 100 quilts and I only have room for a few here, so my apologies to those I left out.

On special exhibit was this late 19th century quilt from the collection of Sandy Schweitzer, which is the quilt that inspired Carrie Quinn's new fabric line, Rebecca's Madders, coming out in December. Can't wait to see it! The back of the quilt is pieced too, isn't that so cool?

Mary Z was there, an old friend I met in Jo Club in 2003 . . . Still happy to see me, or was it being surrounded by all the quilts and fabric?? Hmmm . . . .

(Here's a teaser for you - I'm wearing a small pin that has a picture of the cover of my next book on it!)

Here's one of Mary's little quilts - Sarah's Doll Quilt - that she hand pieced.

And here's one of her big ones - Blue Plate Special.

Here's a doll quilt made by Karen Schultz of Illinois. Simple and scrappy. Hey, Karen, sorry I missed you!

Here's one of Karen's bed-size quilts - Give and Take - which won 3rd place! Sorry if I cut it off a little. I almost fell over backing up trying to get it all in.

Love this Pineapple Table Topper made by Jan Griffith.

Who  can resist 30's Pinwheels?  Made by Vonnie Johnson.

Not all of the photos I took came out very well but here are some other quilts I loved.

     Not Everyone Likes Sunflowers made by Lorraine Tritthardt.

Mary's Stars made by Mary Landis.
Moda Club BOM made by Tricia Baldwin

Jo Morton's Baskets made by Lynn Ray.
Christmas Carol made by Ann Fouse.
Blueberries and Brown Sugar made by Julia Ann Thomson.

Now, don't tell me you don't have any good ideas for future quilts. I want to make all of them, sigh. Wish I had more time.