Saturday, January 29, 2011

Book Signing

This morning was my first book signing "event" for The Civil War Sewing Circle at a local quilt shop. I came, I talked, I signed, I shopped. And, I conquered my fear of  . . . Brown.

Carrie from Pieceful Gathering Quilt Shop in Fox River Grove, IL was nice enough to invite me to spend some time with her customers talking a little about the book and then signing some copies.

Warming up the crowd.

The shop made their own samples from quilts in the book and kits to go with them.

Carrie liked her version better than mine, LOL. You know how I feel about brown . . .

Everybody loved my little hexagons quilt.

This is one of my favorite quilts in the book - lots of red and blue and shirtings.

Here's a full shot of the Friendship Signature quilt made with blocks sent to me by my friends in my Yahoo group.

Some blocks that didn't fit on the front made the backing special

Soldier's Cot Quilt

Double Hourglass quilt

Union Stars quilt - I will be teaching this quilt at the shop's retreat in March in Woodstock, Illinois.

Sewing Box with Wool Applique

Carrie surprised  me with some fat quarters of her new fabric line for Blue Hill Fabrics  - Alice's Wash Day Blues. Oooohhhh. You know how I feel about blue . . .

But look what else I went home with - all these browns. I just couldn't resist!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

My Daily Creative Effort

A few posts back I wrote about making something every day, trying to be creative on a daily basis. How's that going?? you're probably wondering. Well, last week I was busy getting all the new books out to people after they were shipped to me and gosh darn it I had to be pretty "creative" doing that for days - "Dear Sally,  Blah, blah, blah, Yours, Kathleen Tracy." Has to count for something creative, right?

In between rushing off to Office Max for more padded envelopes and numerous runs to the Post Office I made sure I took a few minutes here and there to stop and work on a couple of things. Like the "ugly squares" I picked up last Spring and blogged about here.

This generated quite a few comments when I said certain fabric was ugly to me. Sorry, I still haven't changed my mind - I have to like fabric to buy it and not all reproduction prints appeal to me, antique looking or not. These squares came pre-cut in a package so I had no choice. BUT, when I paired up my ugly squares with prints I liked I came up with quite a few blocks that are great! A little ugly  +  a little pretty  =  Good job, Kathy.

Inspired by some great antique quilts made with ugly fabric in this old book - Remember Me, by Linda Otto Lipsett,

I made a few blocks from the ugly, not ugly squares/triangles and decided it really is all about how you look at it.

Every now and then a quilt maybe needs a little, just a little, of some fabric you would never have thought to include, much less buy, in order for it to have that true antique look we all love. My quilts also will always have that "true" antique look because the blocks are never quite perfect, ha! Just like antique quilts, a little off in places. And I don't even have to work at it that much, like some do, LOL. THEY JUST TURN OUT THAT WAY! Is that cool or what??

It's good to know I'm still learning and keeping an open mind. Who knows, maybe someday I'll even fall in love with brown and green . . .

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Is It Just Me??

What was your morning like? My routine: I let the dogs out, feed the dogs, make the coffee, make breakfast for my daughter, empty the dishwasher, pet the dogs, fill the dishwasher with breakfast dishes, fill the bird feeders, peek at the paper and then take my coffee to the computer to check my e-mail (I work at home so I shower after all this, don't worry). After a bit I got tired of answering e-mails and needed a distraction so I poured another cup of coffee and then sat down to go over my pocket calendar for the rest of the week, letting the caffeine do its work for the day while I also browsed through a couple of catalogs that recently came in the mail.

I rarely order from catalogs, except my favorite quilting catalogs, but I was drawn into this one because it had so many bizarre things in it. I don't know - is it just me or do we really need and does anybody actually buy -

Ruffled washer and dryer covers?? Let's just cover everything in our homes so we don't ever have to dust . . .

No need to explain this one . . .  

A heated wrap. If she's so cold, why doesn't she just put on some clothes??

All 8 Apple Sitters for just one low price!!

This item has to be my favorite . . . a machine to jiggle away your chin fat! On sale! If any of you have this, let me know if it works, okay?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Books Have Arrived!

I came back from the Eye Doctor this afternoon and found that the boxes of my new book had finally arrived from the publisher. Yay! Those of you who ordered signed books from me - I will begin signing them tonight and try to get them out in the mail tomorrow. You should get them very soon.

This means it will be in quilt shops soon if it's not already there. It's worth a visit, so check it out at your local shop and buy some fabric while you're at it. I can't wait to hear what you think. But if you don't like it, don't tell me, LOL. Keep it to yourself.


I think I like the back cover as much as the front.

Friday, January 14, 2011

A Little Something Every Day

Last year, instead of making New Year's resolutions I knew I wouldn't keep, I resolved to do something creative every day. I'm going to try it again this year. For years now, I noticed that I feel calmer, happier and just plain better when I'm creating something. When life gets stressful, it's even more important to do things that make yourself feel good. I'd done cross stitch, needlework and other crafts before I began to quilt and even then the link between feeling good and making things was evident.

Who wouldn't feel good about making these for a soon-to-be-born baby girl?? Right after this is when it got a lot harder to find time to be creative, LOL. The "baby" is now 17 and I can't bear to throw away her onesies I cross stitched . . . . Must have something to do with the upcoming empty-nest I'm facing.

But it gets away from you sometimes, doesn't it? I often try to remember after I finish writing a book and I'm drained and don't think I have any more good ideas in me that it takes a little self-nurturing for awhile to get going again. And I know from experience that when I stop creating,  it's even harder to be creative when I get back to it.

In order to be creative, you have to create.

Does that make sense? The key for me I've learned is that, in order to be creative,  I always  need to be making something, if not every day, then pretty often. I know all of you are thinking: "Hah! Wonder how long she can keep THAT up??"

This year my "Daily" Creative Challenge won't always be a quilt or necessarily quilting-related or maybe not even Daily.  Some days I know I won't have time for much. Today for instance, I have a headache, so there's nothing crafty going on. Some days I just plan to write something creative on the blog (Well, some people  think it's creative . . .). Some days I'll try to get creative with my camera (my family loves when I do that - "Hide, she's coming!"). Or make myself a pair of earrings or a necklace . . .

 . . . or a card out of my lovely scrapbooking paper. And get back to Dear Jane. Or those cross stitch projects I promised myself I'd do this year.  I also enjoy being creative when I cook, especially if I don't have all the ingredients called for in a recipe, LOL. A little of this, a little of that and . . . voila!

No meat in the freezer, so last night it was a Vegetable Stew. Still yum.

To me, all of these count as creative efforts and can really get the juices flowing. Before you know it, I'm looking through my fabric and getting inspired again.

For years, I never thought I was creative and used to wish that I could be as creative as some people. What I did was just play, it wasn't creativity. A musical friend opened my eyes when he told me "Of course you're creative. You admire creative people and love creative things so much - you're just scared to try." I paid attention to that and started looking for small ways to be creative myself and tried not to think or worry so much about failing at what I tried to create. Pretty soon it began to work; he was right. The more I tried to be creative, the better I got at it.

I now think creativity is something that can nurtured and developed in everyone. So if you don't think you're even a bit creative, I'll just bet you are. It seems to me that sometimes what you focus on grows. And that can be good or bad. Try changing your mental attitude to be more positive and constructive, as my husband tells me when I doubt myself. Sounds easy and cliched, and it takes practice, but it works.

I've also learned that if I don't set aside the time and commit to making a little something almost every day, I lose some of that creative urge.  So, if you delay because you think you don't have enough time, try for just 10 or 15 minutes. It's amazing how much you can get into something in a short period of time. If I make even just one little block every day, I'll have a quilt in no time at all! Lately, when I have a few minutes, I've been making a few more little nine-patch blocks from my 1 1/4" scraps for this huge quilt with small pieces that I'm going to create someday . . .  . The little blocks finish at 2 1/4".

I love making small, simple quilts because there's such an immediate satisfaction when you actually finish a project quickly.

Even simple squares can be cute.

If you're a beginning quilter, try not to be overly critical of yourself and try not to worry too much about what others may think. Not everything you create will be perfect and that's okay. It's the process and the practice that are important. Not every quilt I make is fantastic (oh no!). Sometimes I fail at color or technique. But, believe me - it's a process and a journey and you just have to keep at it. Make a little something every day.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Which Colors Make You Happy?

Quilting is definitely all about color. Although our color preferences often change depending on our mood, the seasons, or whichever colors are being strongly marketed, I think most of us prefer one or two colors over others when it comes to fabric selection. Color may also have a huge influence on us in other ways, maybe more than we think.

Strong colors  =  sociability

Cool colors = introversion

I'm showing my age, but do you remember that book about skin tone and color from years ago??

It's January. I tend to wear dark colors or neutral colors in the fall and winter and the quilts I make during those seasons also reflect that tendency. I was just reading an article about color which said that, according to research, we should probably lean toward brighter colors to ward off the dreariness that often surrounds many of us during those seasons and to make ourselves feel better. When the days are stark and we face the winter doldrums in the Midwest, maybe all I need is a little color to perk me up.

Did you know that green is a healing color, the color of nature, Spring, new life?

Blue is calming, soothing and offers immense comfort, like floating in a nice pool of water or looking at the sky on a clear day. Blue is my color and I tend to use a lot of it in my quilts.

Loving pink means you are full of compassion and have an open heart and like to nurture. You might also have a sweet tooth, LOL. A touch of pink in a quilt really gives it a nice Zip, don't you think?

Orange shows high energy, creativity, playfulness. Add some if your quilt seems dull. I do this with patches of gold instead of orange and it really makes a difference in a quilt that might otherwise be "blah."

Yellow refreshes and is associated with mental clarity. Too much yellow can overpower a quilt, though, so watch that. I don't own much yellow fabric. Maybe I should . . .  for the mental clarity part. If I wear it more will I be able to remember names again??

Red is strong and usually shows confidence and passion. Red really pops when you place it in a quilt. I love to balance it with my blues. That way you don't fall asleep from all of the calming blues . . .

If you prefer brown (the color of the earth) it means you  are down to earth as well as warm and practical. Also, brown is soothing. I like to add touches of brown or tan to my quilts to tone down scrappy blocks when they get too excited.

Or use prints that combine brown mixed with my favorite colors.

Listen to this: There's a theory that says if you wear vibrant colors or surround yourself with a lot of color in your home (or your quilts), you are showing the world that you feel great. Then, perhaps you really begin to feel great as well and experts say you can in effect alter your mood as you work with color or wear it.

Uh oh, even though I am definitely a Blue girl, I wear a lot of black - what does that say about me?? (other than I'm always hoping to look a few lbs thinner . . . ). Black certainly makes a fashion statement, but it also makes you sort of invisible and I think I wear it mostly when I want to keep a low profile and not stand out too much (most of the time??). When I wear brighter colors, I'm wondering, do I tend to be more sociable? I'll have to ask my husband (if he even notices, LOL, I wear a lot of black . . .). Making quilts with bright colors energizes me sometimes and, depending on where I plan to use the quilt, if I make it scrappy with a lot of different colors then I will also add calm fabrics.

I'm not quite sure about this theory however and have to start noticing more. Whenever I feel I need a perk (and Starbucks is just too darn far away), I think I tend to surround myself and work with the colors I love - cool colors like blue - to make myself feel better, but I do not necessarily notice that I  feel  more creative or refreshed. Maybe the next time I feel sad or lacking in energy - Hello February - I'll try throwing on a little orange or yellow and see what happens. Time for a new wardrobe? Or maybe I'll just wrap myself in a scrappy, colorful quilt! (Or afghan . . . )

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

A Very Easy Quilting Design

Esther left a comment on my last post about hand quilting where she mentioned she is using an Orange Peel design on one of her small quilts. I also did that on one quilt in my new book, The Civil War Sewing Circle (Coming out next week!!! Can you believe it?? Hold on just a little longer . . . ).

Instead of using an Orange Peel template or making my own from template plastic, here's what I did:

I marked the center of the block and then traced around a small bowl with a water soluble marking pen to make a half circle on one side. Then I turned the quilt and used the bowl again to trace intersecting half circles around the rest of the block. Better than a template because you can do it easily with any size block, large or small - just find the right bowl with a nice arc. Here's a sample square:

The half circles intersect and you'll get this peel design if you mark each side of the block with an arc.

Then, just quilt on the lines and dampen or wash the quilt gently to remove all traces of the marking pen. It was easy to do this on a small quilt and it turned out very nice, I think. I'm not sure I'd try it on a larger quilt unless I had a lot of time. You can also mark circles between the blocks to get the same Orange Peel design but doing it this way gave me a little more control as I was working on each block. I especially like the way it looks on the plain blocks where the stitches stand out a little more.

Oh, and if you haven't tried it yet, my favorite quilting thread is YLI quilting thread. I'm very partial to the light brown as it gives a nice antique look when stitched on both light and dark fabrics.