Tuesday, November 30, 2010

It's a Book, Finally!

Last week I got my advance copy of The Civil War Sewing Circle! I've been talking about it for almost a year and even though all of you must be so tired of hearing about it, I can't tell you how exciting it is to see it in REAL book format, finally. Yay!  Available at quilt shops on or around January 10.

After working so hard on a quilt pattern book -  designing the patterns, making the quilts, sketching the illustrations, researching, writing the text, you begin to lose a sense of how it will all turn out in the end. I had the title and idea stuck in my head since 2008, after I finished Remembering Adelia, but didn't actually begin working on it until July 2009. When you turn in the manuscript for a book, you wait for what seems like an endless time to see the finished product. Will the quilts look nice in the photos? Will the design be pleasing? Will all the effort and research I put into it be appreciated? Most importantly, will anybody like it well enough to buy it? Essentially all out of my hands.

I tried to make every quilt in the book inspiring in some way and that wasn't easy. I wanted the quilts to be simple enough for beginners to make and yet also give experienced quilters patterns that are, if not exactly challenging, at least interesting. Some designs got cut and others filled in at the last minute. Some I wish I had had more time to plan.

It's a lot of work on the author's end that needs to be completed in a relatively short time so that the publisher can put it all together and get it on a publishing schedule. But, all in all, I think most of you will like most of the quilts, if not all of them.  Heck, I rarely like every quilt in my books myself and after I'm done often wish I'd changed my mind about the fabric or the setting but there's never time to switch and substitute another right in the middle. Sometimes decisions have to be made quickly and there's no going back.

If you haven't heard, The  Civil War Sewing Circle contains patterns for 8 doll quilts, a few larger quilts and a couple of sewing accessories. And lots of old photos to entice you even more. Here's a little preview.

The flat shots of quilts in most books don't really give you a true idea of what the quilts really look like, in my opinion. This quilt, for instance, looks much nicer up close than it does in the photo, where you can't really see the lovely (and lively!) border fabric.

This is the Friendship Album signature quilt that contains blocks made by my SmallQuiltTalk yahoo group. So special to have signatures of many in the group. I love how it turned out.

Pretty  little hexagons!

I sort of hated this quilt after I made it - too dark, I thought - but now it's growing on me . . . and I think it's actually good. Again, the photo in the book does not do it justice.

It's fun to see the pages with old photos and text, excerpts from letters written during the Civil War.

After my last blog post on gifts for friends, here's a shameless plug - I would like to say that this would make another really great Christmas present for a special friend, but unfortunately, it won't be available until January. Darn! Ask your friends if they mind getting their gifts late . . . my friends are used to it, LOL. You can always pre-order a signed copy here and hope for the best and I'll get it out to you as soon as my books come in from the publisher. Better late than never. And possibly, just possibly, a teeny bit early.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Little Gifts

Christmas will be here before you know it. As you're rushing around this weekend, facing crowds, getting shopping done and taking advantage of sales - don't forget that the best gifts are often those we make ourselves. Make someone a little quilt (or a big one if  you have the time!).

I made this quilt for my friend Julia. We share the same birthday and I was in the hospital for the last birthday in September. After that, I became so involved with my recovery for such a  long time. But I still wanted to give her a little something I made.  She broke her wrist and her right arm has been in a cast for a long time so she hasn't been able to do any quilting at all. How awful would that be? It took me awhile with everything else I had to do but I finally finished it and gave it to her last week. She liked it (!) and even forgave me for giving it to her so late.

I think even a simple little doll quilt makes a great gift. Or should I say, for many of us, a simple little doll quilt ESPECIALLY makes a great gift. I'm still working on a copy of this antique doll quilt I started while I was recovering. This one may be going to someone else . . . Don't you love the muted colors? So easy too.

I'm a little behind with all this birthday stuff. I visited my friend Linda recently to celebrate OUR birthdays, which are two days apart, and had to show you this tiny quilt - made many years ago for her by her aunt. Even before I became a quilter, I fell in love with it, so cute and small. I had forgotten about it for a long time. This is so funny, because one of Julia's other gifts was this pendant, which I bought BEFORE I saw Linda's quilt. I wonder if I may have unconsciously been thinking of it and my upcoming visit when I bought the pendant? ("You think too much," my husband, Mr Practical,  says. "Maybe it is what it is.")

I will make this into a  small quilt someday, with repros and black background fabric - wouldn't that look cool?

You can see just how tiny the quilt is (on the wall, behind her).

Serendipity? I think so. I may be seeing Fan quilts everywhere I go now . . .  By the way, that movie - "Serendipity" - starring John Cuzak? One of my all-time schmaltzy favorites, I'm not embasrrassed to admit. A good, sentimental chick flick in the vein of "Sleepless in Seattle" if you're in the mood for something light and romantic. I like good films too, just so you know (and in case my son, a film buff,  reads this and shakes his head . . . "Oh Mom, c'mon." ).

If you don't have time for a quilt, you can always make a small quilt accessory. Like one of these "huswife" needle cases from Remembering Adelia. I even give them to non-quilters to use as credit card or gift card holders - just omit the felt flap. Lots of pockets.

They make good secret Santa gifts too.

Or try this small needle case from American Doll Quilts - the book is out of print, but is still available in a digital version, which you just download to your computer as a pdf file, now on sale  here  for only $5.50! This weekend only, Martingale & Co. has a sale on all of their books. Such a  deal. So make a friend happy - make her something!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

We're spending a rather quiet Thanksgiving today. One of my sisters will be here with the four of us but the others are spending it with their own kids and grandkids who are spread out all over. My son came home from college and it's so good to see him! Even if it means sharing the good TV and running out of food . . .

My daughter made a pumpkin pie - her tradition since she learned to bake years ago. I made my first attempt at a pecan pie - uh oh, I burned it a little. Oh well. I'm sure it will taste just fine served with ice cream to cover up the burnt parts. Martha, if you're reading this, forgive me, LOL. The creamed spinach turned out great.

I hope all of you in the U.S. have a wonderful holiday surrounded by family and loved ones. Don't forget to count your blessings. And that means being especially grateful for the crabby, cranky relatives too . . . There's a few in every family (not mine, of course) -  just don't let yourself be one of them!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Quilter's Gratitude

I used to keep a gratitude journal but that fell by the wayside a few years ago during a time when life just got too busy. I must have felt that I had been blessed enough and didn't need to write down my blessings anymore.

Nothing to be grateful for??

Thanksgiving week is always the week it comes up again and lately I have been reflecting on just how much I have to be grateful for. Loving family, good friends and health are at the top of the list and even though there have been so many stresses this year, there's still much to be thankful for, even when it sometimes seems like there's not. I'm grateful that my illness wasn't more serious than it was and that I was able to recover nicely.

Being grateful for material provisions may seem . . . materialistic . . . but I'm thankful nonetheless to have a house with a bed to sleep in, food on the table, surrounded by nice things and being able to help provide for our family in these uncertain economic times. 

I may not write in a gratitude journal, but I say a silent "Thank you" often during the day. Sometimes it's for the little things, like:  I finished another quilt without having to stop and thread the bobbin, which was almost empty  . . . The dog went out to pee a few minutes before the rain came and so we didn't get wet  . . . Even though traffic was heavy this morning and I was running late for my doctor's appointment, I found a great parking spot right near the door and I got in before it rained again  . . . Or, the grocery store was not one bit crowded last night while I shopped for Thanksgiving dinner food, I finished in 40 minutes flat, and they weren't out of cranberries or cornbread stuffing as in years past! It's the little things . . . .

I know being grateful can seem silly to some people, so "Oprah" if you know what I mean. I don't care. I'm grateful my daughter bought me this lovely journal awhile ago to help me remember to keep track. I'm going to use it.

So what else does this quilter have to be grateful for?

I couldn't quilt for a few weeks because it hurt to sit for too long - so I'm really grateful I now can be back at my machine if I don't overdo it. I'm grateful I took it in for a tuneup before I got sick.

I'm grateful for the automatic threader on my machine, every time I use it.

I'm grateful for all the tools we have to make quilting easier for us than it was for quilters long ago. Can you imagine cutting everything out with scissors and not having any choice but to piece everything by hand? It works for some people and some projects, but only when I choose. I can use modern technology if I wish.

I'm grateful for the abundance of fabric I can choose from to make colorful scrap quilts. Overflowing sometimes and almost never ending.

I'm grateful for the opportunity to have had four books published and that people actually want to buy the books I write and make the quilts I design! And even though I'm a Sentimental Quilter, I won't get too sentimental about it here . . .

I'm grateful that quilters are the nicest people you'll ever meet, much nicer than say, fiction book or movie critics, LOL. Also, some politicians and cable news anchors . . . . I definitely chose the right business to go into.

Look, they're all so nice - listening, enthralled, hanging on my every word. Except for that one lady - I suppose she was probably looking for her camera . . .
As we celebrate this season of gratitude, what are you grateful for in your life? Look around you, there's so much. Me? Today? Kids and puppies, as always. Even puppies with bad hair days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

I Always Meet the Nicest Quilters

I spent the last several days in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where I met the nicest quilters!

First, I taught  a workshop "featuring" the little Bear's Paw quilt from Prairie Children & Their Quilts in the morning and then gave a presentation later in the evening. I was almost late for the class because it was so cold when I stepped out of the hotel and discovered we needed a little extra time to defrost all of the ice on the car. Brrr!

Here's a happy quilter

I always meet the nicest quilters!

My workshops are always fun because the projects are small enough so that the ladies usually get to finish the top and don't have to go home with another UFO. While they're sewing, I  try to supplement the class with a little history lesson and a trunk show of the other quilts from the book. A nice, cozy little sewing circle.

Each of the quilts turned out differently and I love all of the unique variations of this simple pattern. Perfect for a cold Fall morning!

Someone had been reading my blog and needed to show me HER little Twirling Pinwheels quilt, wouldn't you know it? See, I told you, they're everywhere. Lovely black borders too!

After the workshop some of us went out to lunch and then made a quick stop at a local quilt shop - Lulijune's. Such a sweet little shop, chock full of just the type of fabrics and quilts I love!

Meet LeAnn, who owns the shop. I had a hard time taking my eyes off some of the quilts on the wall!

Thanks for the shop tour, LeAnn!

I told you, I always meet the nicest quilters . . . and then go home with some wonderful memories.

Although the weather on the drive home was cold and foggy in places, and the landscape a little stark, I think the Midwest is still beautiful in November.

Friday, November 12, 2010

While the Cat's Away

I had a million things to do last weekend. My husband took my daughter out of town to visit a college and I was looking forward to being alone - I promised myself I would clean up and organize some of my stuff.  I've gotten way behind on clutter control, not being able to do much for so long. Just sitting looking at all of the paper, books, magazines, mail, etc. drives me crazy. I get to some of it and then I turn around and there's more! No, sorry, I'm not going to show you my real mess. Let's just say that my mother may be turning over in her grave about now . . . Although I do like to think that she'd understand what I've been through in the past few months and would give me a pass. If she were alive, she'd undoubtedly step in and help.

Stuff all over, everywhere

Papers and magazines piled up, needing to be filed

What's the best way to avoid doing work you really don't want to do? Find something inspiring to distract you, of course. Cheryl from my yahoo group made a Pinwheel quilt that was generating quite a lot of attention and talk. As you can see, her quilt is lovely and everyone drooled over it and we were all curious as to how she made it. Some said the pattern is in the Square Dance book by Martha Thompson, others had seen it at quilt shows or shops made with a special "Twister" tool.

Well, I couldn't get Cheryl's pretty quilt out of my head for days and all the talk about the Square Dance or "Twister" quilt intrigued and inspired me even more. I went to a quilt show at the Chicago Botanic Garden last Friday and what do you know? There was a small "Twister" quilt there too. Now it seems like they're everywhere I look. This happened to me with hexagons last year - I couldn't stop seeing them everywhere until I made one with hexagons myself.

 Fay Stickler made this "Twirling Pinwheels" quilt. Black seems to be a popular option for the setting and borders.

I knew I was going to be very busy in the next few weeks - out of town for a lecture, work to do on patterns and then the holidays - and I wouldn't have time for it then. It really was now or never. I had no time to run around and look for the ruler so I made my own template and then figured out how to make the quilt myself.

Sew 5" x 5" squares together and add a border.

Homemade "ruler" - 4" x 4" cut from template plastic.  Place at seams where they intersect and cut around the square template. Twist the pinwheels and sew together in rows, matching the colors of the spokes. Almost like a puzzle.

You guessed it, I never did get around to cleaning or organizing - I took advantage of my "alone" time that weekend and on the spur of the moment - a sort of "whirlwind spree" if you will - made a quilt just for myself.

I finished putting the top together on Sunday. I still have to decide what to do about the borders, but I'm pretty sure I'm going with black too.

I really had a lot of fun making my Pinwheel/Square Dance/Twister quilt - sewing all the squares together first and then cutting them apart to get the pinwheels. When I showed my husband how I made it he said "You did what??" and laughed that I would make a quilt and then cut it apart to make another one.  A big thanks to Cheryl for her inspiration! There's always next week for cleaning and organizing. . .  .

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Blown in by the Autumn Winds

My yahoo group SmallQuiltTalk  just finished a Maple Leaf block exchange. I had signed up to participate but then got sick and felt terrible when I had to drop out. Imagine my surprise when everyone in the exchange made extra blocks and sent them to me! You know how much I love Fall and all of its colors.

Now I have my very own blocks to make my own special Maple Leaf quilt. Some were signed with the makers' names on the back, in the seams. Someone in the group suggested putting the names of the block makers on the back of the quilt and I think that's a great idea so I will never forget. The group is going to do a Signature Swap with some small blocks in January. We'll have to see if I can join in this time.

Aren't they beautiful? I hear there are more on the way and I can't wait. Thank you all so much for thinking of me!

This wonderful magazine with lots and lots of great scrappy quilts and Kathie's Tumbler quilt on the cover also arrived in the mail last week. There was a little card inside with a note that was signed "Your friend" but no signature. Hey! This is driving me crazy!

I guess the sender wishes to remain anonynous but I sure would like to know who it was so I can thank her properly! C'mon, Anonymous,  'fess up . . .

If you like scrappy quilts, you all "need" this magazine -