Thursday, March 31, 2011

Making Something Larger Than Sorrow

The veterinarian thinks my beautiful dog has cancer and I feel my heart is about to break. I know many of you have gone through this also and probably much worse and so you will understand. I have gone through much, much worse stuff myself over the years. In the big scheme of things I know that losing a dog is not a huge deal to many. Life in Japan right now must be absolutely devastating. But life here, in this house, will not be the same without our pet.

Wheaten Terriers pups have dark muzzles and rust colored fur - they lose that coat and become lighter as adults.

Our beloved canine companion came to us after the dark days of Sept 11 and after we had already lost another much loved dog that year and also one the year before. Almost immediately, our lives changed for the better and the happiness factor took over as we focused our family energies on nurturing and teaching a puppy to live among humans. He made us laugh again. Silly puppy! Some of you without pets will not understand how much solace they provide.
Are you kidding me? You throw the ball and then you want me to bring it BACK to you?

I really am trying hard to be creative on a daily basis to get through. Making things is a nice distraction from this and other stressful stuff going on right now. I am not looking forward to having more surgery next month, for instance. Sometimes worry is like a big dark cloud over my head and nothing gets done around here. But if, when I feel the sad feelings coming on, I begin to make something, I become calmer. All of my energy gets focused on something a lot more pleasant. That's not to say the sadness goes away, but it becomes diluted a bit and doesn't take center stage anymore. It's always helpful for me to channel those negative thoughts into something creative.

Ah yes, time to make yet another quilt! A few days ago I had the urge to play with color some. My daughter's quilt was already planned and the colors picked. So I put it aside for a little bit and started making simple Pinwheels after I saw an antique doll quilt I could not afford. Cheaper to just make my own and much more healing. The colorful antique Pinwheels became stuck in my mind, day and night. They remind me of how my head is swirling right now - Pinwheels of chaos attempting to take over my brain if I let it. As I slowly focus on choosing just the right muted colors and reproduction prints and sew the simple pieces together I sense a calmness coming on. I am bringing something simple and lovely into the world. Never mind the stress.

Does this ever happen to you? A friend once told me she made her largest, most complicated quilt when she thought her marriage was on the rocks. Throwing herself into making the quilt gave her a whole new perspective. I don't have the energy to work on my Dear Jane right now but I wonder just how large this Pinwheel quilt is going to have to be if it's to become larger than my sorrow.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Motherly Love

Here's a secret I don't often share: I sometimes think I am a terrible mother because my daughter is 17 and I STILL have not made her a quilt! Granted, I haven't been quilting all that long and while she's had plenty of doll quilts to play with over the years, she doesn't have a big quilt for herself. Oh dear, how can that be, what have I been doing? Have I been that busy? She'll be going off to college later this year. How time flies . . . .

I was able to sneak in a college quilt for my son while working on Remembering Adelia. I remember being VERY stressed trying to get everything done for the book plus an extra quilt, too, before he left. All a blur now. We've been planning a quilt for my daughter to take with her when she goes away to school.

One of the schools she is thinking of attending (still undecided) is located in a town that played a prominent role in the Underground Railroad movement and the campus has strong ties to the Civil War and anti-slavery activism. This historic campus building below was the site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas senatorial debates in 1858.

Imagine - Lincoln sat in this very chair too . . . .

I am letting her plan her quilt the way she wants it. She fell in love with the Soldier's Cot quilt in my new book The Civil War Sewing Circle while I was making it. But she really loved the pinks and browns in the little Shoo Fly Quilt in the same book. I am trying to get her involved in making this quilt as much as possible. She's not always crazy about my fabric choices for my quilts and tries to advise me. Last week she looked through my fabric and picked out a lot of reproductions prints in pink and brown for her quilt. Made me so happy! Of course, 1800s repros is pretty much all I have, LOL, so there wasn't much choice. But still, I offered to take her shopping for others. I went shopping myself and brought home a few more prints I thought she would like and started cutting out the pieces last week.

I fell in love with Jo Morton's brown Luminaria prints and when I showed them to her she did too. I knew she would.  Look, they almost glow!

Rough sketch. I downsized the blocks to be a bit smaller than the ones in the book - 9" x 9". I'll let her pick out her borders.

I made a few scrappy blocks already. Aren't these sweet?

My daughter is an avid animal lover and I thought about somehow incorporating that into her quilt but she's too old for most of the "kiddie" prints out there. And I don't really have any animal prints in my repro collection -  EXCEPT for this Classic Conversational print of "kitties" designed by Judie Rothermel for Marcus Brothers from a few years ago. She loved  it for a background on some of the blocks and I just ordered a similar print with doggies on it. Perfect!

When I made a quilt for my son, I used rich fabrics mixed with darker prints because that was his style and it was HIS quilt, after all, not mine. It needed to be simple and also practical, to stand up to use - like a quickly  made quilt for a Civil War soldier going off to war, my son was prepared for the college battlefield.

If she decides to attend this school with such a rich history, how fitting to have a quilt to bring along made from Civil War-era fabrics.

Soldier's Cot Quilt

Like many quilters who have daughters, I often think it would be so nice if she shared my quilting passion. Selfish, I know, but hey, I think she'd have fun too. She's very good with color. I've tried to encourage her to learn to quilt many times but she tells me "That's YOUR thing Mom, not mine." If I can't teach her to quilt, how do I pass on the tradition in my family? Is it enough of a legacy to just make a quilt for her? If I don't teach her, the quilting tradition that began with me in our family will also die with me, and that makes me sad. I do know there's still time and quilters I meet always tell me their own daughters came around eventually, some in their twenties and thirties. Perhaps someday, after college, she'll come to me and say "Mom, will you teach me how to make a quilt?" I can only hope. And, if not quilting, at the very least I'll have passed on the legacy of motherly love.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Connecting with My Inner Fish

My son was home for Spring break from college last week and so we took a trip to the Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago with his girlfriend and my daughter. I originally suggested the Natural History museum since I'm not a fish person but I was outvoted. It was fun to spend time with them and see them enjoy themselves, however. Also, Chicago is a great city and I love being able to drive down there and visit for a day.

The Shedd Aquarium itself sits on Chicago's lakefront and the Oceanarium (housing beluga whales, Pacific dolphins, sea otters and sea lions) allows a great view of Lake Michigan.

Fish (some) are beautiful and all but I much prefer a pet that fetches . . .

Waiting for the show to begin . . .

Beluga whales

My, they swim fast!

Feeding time for the stingrays

As I mentioned before, I am not really a fish person. When my son, the budding scientist, was in second grade his teacher obtained tadpoles for the children to observe and study for the Science unit on amphibians. By the end of the school year, only 2 of the frogs had survived. So "Swimmy" came home to live with us that year (1996?) and my son kept him in his room in a fish tank (he's an aquatic frog). My son is 22 now and I can't believe that that darn frog is STILL alive.

When my son went away to college, he handed the frog "torch" to my daughter and so now she feeds and takes care of Swimmy. My son says he is NOT taking that frog with him after he graduates and gets an apartment of his own. My daughter will be going to college in the Fall. Can you see where this is going? None of us has the heart to take Swimmy to a "Frog Farm" or throw him into a pond to fend for himself in the wild so I think my husband will have to inherit the torch because, I'm telling you now, I'M not taking care of it when she leaves. My husband recently came up with a brilliant suggestion  -  a frog giveaway!! On the blog!! Swimmy is really cute and has a great personality when he's not trying to eat your fingers. Anyone?? Free to a good home but you'll have to come pick him up . . . .


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Giveaway Winner

I have to say, all of you played along with me on this one rather nicely, LOL. I'm sure there were some who thought I was absolutely nuts, though. I really needed a silly distraction and a little fun and I hope you all had some fun too. Can you believe it? Dress #1 came in first, followed closely by The RED Dress. In case you didn't read the comments, here are some of my favorites:

  • Go for the red, hot, hot!! --QuiltinMama
  • Absolutely #7. This is no time to be shy. Go for it! Hubby will love it! --Grandma Rita
  • #7 It's a good thing to shake a husband up once in a while ;) --Melody
  • Red one - it has the most fabric in the dress, therefore, you will have more to cut up and put in lots of special quilts after you wear it to the awards!!!! --Kristy in Ohio (She thinks just like a quilter, doesn't she?)
  • I think #1 is the winner- Go for elegant - you could make a shawl of hexagons from your scraps. -- Peg from NJ (Good idea! I sure have a lot of hexagons already made and I do need to do something with them . . .)
  • Oh dahling, you must wear number 2 -- all your lovely scraps would go so well over it. Rip off the ruffle and add prairie points.—Bonnie (Yes! I can visualize it!)
  • And number 4 is also ok but more for skinny people – Heleen (Thanks a bunch, Heleen.)
  • Love the color blue too, but I think the neckline might hit your waistline. --Karen  (I know exactly what you're saying here . . . .)
  • OMG......# 4 YES #4, and if that dress could make my thighs look that good, well....I'm just saying I'd wear the damn thing night and day, to the grocery store too!! –Wendy (I'm right there with you, Wendy. I don't see any pockets, where would I keep my coupons??)
  • Love love #2 in the blue! What I love best about it is the ruffled neckline which I think will draw the eye away from anywhere you would not like to be focused. Does that make sense? --Louise  (What are you trying to say, Louise? That my hips are too big, LOL?)
You guys crack me up and I wish we were all  in one big quilt guild together - think of the fun we'd have!

*  *  *

So, last night, before he went to bed, My Random Number Generator picked -  Diane H  of Ontario, Canada, as the winner of the 3 fat quarters of Alice's Washday Blues! Congratulations, Diane! Send me your address. Make a cute little quilt, okay?

It's still not too late to vote - go to  and choose your favorites.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Golden Quilter Awards

The word is out and the nominations are in. The rumors are true. I must be totally clueless, because I have to admit I'd never heard of this before so I was taken unawares when Gerda told me I was nominated  for a Golden Quilter award in the Best Author category. Wow, you can imagine my surprise. (It was 3 a.m. and the phone rang. "Whaaat??  You're kidding me . . . " For once I was speechless.)

Seriously, friends, thanks to whoever cast those votes to nominate me. (Bonnie, are you absolutely sure you didn't vote twice??) If you are itching for some great giveaways, check out The Golden Quilter awards on SewCalGal's blog for those who cast votes.

Anyone can vote for their favorite nominee in any or all of the Quilting categories. Post a comment on SewCalGal's blog and you'll have a chance to win some fabulous prizes. Voting ends on March 31. If I win, there'll be a few nice giveaways here too. I promise.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go get started on my acceptance speech. All the nominees have to be prepared cuz you never know . . .  "You like me, you really LIKE me . . ." Oh wait, that's been done before . . . Maybe I'd better go talk to Susan Lucci and see how she did it . . . Oh, and I have to find a dress . . . Black, I think, it's slimming . . . and perfect  for my Long Shot status. Does my husband need to rent a tux or will anyone even be looking at him on the Red Carpet??? What WILL I do with my HAIR??

What oh what should I wear?? Here's the deal - pick the gown you think is best suited to me to wear to the [imaginary] Awards Ceremony (be kind) and I will throw your comments into a pool to win a few fat quarters of the new Alice's Wash Day Blues fabric designed by Carrie Quinn for Blue Hill.

Quilters, here are your [imaginary] choices. (Work with me . . .)

# 1 - Simple and elegant, not too flashy. And I know I can fill out the top much better than she does.

#2 - I love blue, but is this one a little crazy or what??
Too Smurfy?? I don't know, I kinda like it. The ruffle on the bottom, not so much . . .

#3  - Also very simple but I might  have to lose a few. This one only comes in Junior Miss. But then my daughter can wear it to Prom afterwards.

# 4 - Nice. I love  Ralph Lauren, but would I be able to wear my Granny underwear with this??

#5 - This one would make my butt look waaay too big . . .

#6 - Totally classic and dramatic. Perfect if I happen to lose.

#7 - My husband wouldn't know what hit him and would probably have a heart attack if I wore this . . . . Do I take that chance? Or is it too dangerous?

So, choose your dress, post a comment and you'll have a chance to win some really cool fabric. Dress comments will close at 10 p.m. CST Tuesday, March 22.

Also, don't forget, go to before March 31 to cast your vote for me or your other favorites. Take your time and vote wisely. Voice your Choice. Tell your friends. I need all the help I can get.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Charm Quilts

When we think of charm quilts we think of quilts that are made without two pieces cut from the same fabric. Sometimes they contain hundreds or thousands of pieces that are all different. Actually, however, many quilts we casually call charm quilts today do have pieces that are used more than once and the name often includes quilts that simply are made with many different fabrics, whether it's accurate or not.

You know I love scrappy little quilts and a charm quilt is on my list of quilts to make someday. Lord knows I have enough charms . . . .

Charm squares, not yet turned into a charm quilt, LOL.

This one should have been a charm quilt but I used a few pieces more than once. I decided to call it a "Charming" quilt instead . . . .

Sometimes, quilters from the past would include 2 pieces of the same fabric in their charm quilt to make it more interesting while also making a game for others to search for the duplicate patch. Here's one that claims to have only 2 patches alike in the whole quilt.

I recently found a perfect book for those of you who want to use up some of your scraps. Tara Lynn Darr's new book, Simply Charming, is just great for lovers of small scrap quilts and includes patterns for 20 little quilts! Any one of them would be perfect for making a small charm quilt.

I had fun looking through the book - so many of the fabrics Tara used in her quilts are ones I have in my scrap collection too.

I know I have enough scraps to make several of these quilts without repeating a single fabric. Do you too??

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Show & Tell

Aside from meeting so many wonderful quilters, one of my favorite things about traveling around and visiting guilds is staying for the Show & Tell part of the meeting where members present quilts they've made. They always seem to enjoy seeing my quilts and I love seeing theirs too.

Here are some quilts made by members of the Prairie Patch Quilt Guild in Mundelein, IL, taken when I visited earlier this week. 

These are VERY small. Gotta love those tiny scrappy stars . . . .

See what you can do with charm squares? Whip up a simple table topper in no time at all.

The tiniest one yet!