Monday, March 31, 2014

What's a Doll Quilt Workshop Without Genuine Doll Quilts?

This past Saturday I taught a workshop to a group of quilters. We made the Prairie Points Doll Quilt from my book Remembering Adelia.  If you are making one small quilt a month with me again this year, this is the one I chose for April. It's a lot of fun to make (Prairie Points! Fun, fun, fun!) and goes together pretty quickly. Page 66 in the book. The directions are simple and clear.

Taking a workshop is fun -  kind of like a mini-retreat. Here's what some of the quilters in the group did with their blocks -

I always love seeing the different fabrics each quilter chooses for her quilt. Traditional quilt blocks like the ones I use to make my quilts are timeless and they can easily move into different styles.  Just because I made my quilt with mostly 19th century reproduction prints doesn't mean you can't use batiks or brights in yours. Instead of making the quilt with 12 blocks, some chose to make 2 smaller quilts, using 6 blocks for each quilt. Someone adjusted the size and made 3-inch blocks. If you're short on time, even a quilt with 4 blocks would still look cute. Or, here's an idea - make the Prairie Points as your border and skip the other border. It's fun to play around and have fun with these small quilts.

If making a quilt this month (or any month) just seems like too much work for you, try breaking your project into chunks and do a little every week, on a schedule,  as I suggested here last year. By the end of the month (not to mention the end of the YEAR) you'll be surprised at how much you have accomplished. And perhaps you'll have a few little quilts to show for it.

I had a lot of fun playing around with some small scraps for the blocks - lights and darks and indigoes and a small splash of bright color here and there. Notice that I used 2 different (but similar) prints for the setting squares and triangles to give my quilt a scrappy feel. I used a stencil to mark the plain blocks and then hand quilted a small floral design in the center. 

While I was at the workshop, I met a woman who collected antique and vintage doll quilts. She was kind enough to bring a few along to share with us for Show & Tell.

Crazy doll quilts. (One may have been a pillow covering.)

Matching doll quilts made in 1929 for twin girls - Shirley Ann and Mary Jane. Lucky little girls indeed. Although they don't look like they were played with too much; both were in great condition. 

This one was probably cut down from a larger quilt.

A feedsack flour bag used as backing for one of the doll quilts.

Annie also collects old quilt blocks and sews them together into "antique" looking doll quilts which she then hand quilts. They turn out so cute and I think I'm going to try to make a few like this with some of my old quilt blocks.

If you have any old blocks lying around, maybe you'll be inspired to try this too. If you do attempt it, send me a photo. I'd love to see it.

Do yourself a favor this week and find time to make something small!

Friday, March 7, 2014

It's a Good Day

It's a good day when I wake up in the morning and decide to make something and then actually do it. Plus, the sun is out and Chicagoans are walking around with their jackets unzipped and coats unbuttoned, even though it's still only in the upper 30s. Something's in the air - you can feel it. Spring is coming!

I spent most of this past week indoors working on a small quilt for a new pattern and fabric giveaway here on the blog next week Wednesday (mark your calendars, girls!). That took longer than I expected to finish because of so many interruptions (raise your hand if you have a dog and kids and a phone). So I was determined to get back to my DJ blocks before the week was over and took a personal challenge from Sheri (in our Dear Jane Group) to finish another block.  Where does the time go? I often get so busy with other things and haven't made one since January. I always forget how much fun they are to put together.

Block L-1.   Not perfect, but perfectly good and - even better - it's finished.

Here's a little sneak peek of some of the pretty fabrics I've been working with for my new little quilt. It's Woodlands, designed by Jo Morton for Andover Fabrics.

Come back on Wed to see the fat quarters I'll be giving away.

It's amazing what a little sun streaming through the window, pretty fabrics and a small accomplishment can do to lift your spirits and make your day. Why, I may even finish another DJ block while I still have time today. The pieces are already cut so the rest is easy. Then I'm going out for a bit to enjoy the "nice" weather. I hear it's supposed to get up to 40 degrees before the forecasted "periods of freezing drizzle and the evening will change to a light wintry mix."

Is it true that in order to keep warm in winter you need to eat a high-fat diet? Then it's deep dish pizza for dinner tonight! Oh no, what do you mean that's just for the birds??

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Imperfect Quilts

Thank you for all of your e-mails and comments on my recent blog post about quilts that are not perfect. Some of you "got" exactly what I was talking about. In case anyone misunderstood, this is what I should have added -
I am not saying that we should be careless in making our quilts or aim to make quilts that are sloppy or slipshod. Not at all. I think we should always try to do good work, should AIM for some kind of standard or even perfection. But we should not beat ourselves up if we don't make it every time, particularly if we are just learning, either quilting itself or a new technique. We're not all quilting in an attempt to win a ribbon, but if you are, then that's great. You should be proud. What I meant was that we should never let others judge our quilts according to their standards. They may be in an entirely different place than we are. We should not be afraid or let anyone keep us from trying to do something just because we're worried they may think it isn't "good enough" (according to their standards).
I know that creativity flourishes in an atmosphere of safety and acceptance and play.

Some quilters are naturals and have an easier time of it than others. Their first time at the sewing machine they can whip out a perfect block or quilt and then continue along at this pace. I admire those who can do that. Others, like me,  had a longer learning curve. No matter how hard I tried at first I always made mistakes and got frustrated easily. Most of the time I was trying to quilt with all sorts of distractions and children underfoot. But, you know, I never let it stop me and I never talked down to myself or listened to others who did. (There were more than a few who did this when I was first starting out, let me tell you). I knew I wasn't an expert. But I told myself to keep going because I loved the process. I listened to my heart and it told me I loved to quilt. It took me awhile to learn to go easy on myself and give myself a break. I knew my quilts might never come out perfectly but thought - what if I could still offer something to all the quilters out there who were like me?
An early quilt full of triangle points that don't match. Neither do the borders, LOL.
In the end, I like to think I did okay and I hope at the very least I gave encouragement to a lot of  quilters who were just like me. Maybe the very first quilt they would make would not be a fancy appliqued quilt or one with a thousand pieces that would win a prize.  Some of you have made or will make quilts like this right off the bat. Others will not and Guess what? That's okay. Everyone has to start somewhere and be comfortable choosing a pace of their own. And no one has the right to criticize how they do it. Perhaps we're not all "natural born" quilters with tremendous artistic ability and skills. But we can still call ourselves quilters. Sometimes we have to work a little harder at it but the rewards are great when you accomplish something you weren't even sure you could do in the first place.
One of my imperfect quilts. Maybe not a big deal to some, but never in a million years did I think I could hand piece an entire quilt with Y seams, even a small one. "What are you thinking? You can't do this," I said to myself. But I pushed that thought aside and tried it anyway and then went on to make 3 more just like this one . . . . Not at all perfect, but so much fun. You should try this one.

A few years ago I taught a workshop and a woman came up to me, hugged me and showed me the first quilt she had ever made from a pattern in one of my books. She was not a quilter before that and I was proud of her for beginning to quilt and then taking classes to learn even more. I remember her friends in the class all rallied around her, cheering her on.
My purpose in beginning my pattern business (and eventually writing my books) was to encourage others who wanted to quilt but maybe did not have the confidence to try it or felt they shouldn't try if they couldn't do it perfectly. I knew that feeling and I jumped in anyway.
If you wait until you can do a thing perfectly, most likely you will never do it at all. Creativity is a process and we all have to follow that instinct inside that tells us we CAN do something, not listen to the little voice that says we're not good enough to even try in case it does not turn out perfectly. What I learned is that, if you never try, you will never succeed. And that this does not just apply to quilting, it applies to almost anything in life you dream of doing. 
I like to show off a few of my quilts with mistakes when I teach to inspire others to be confident and to keep going despite difficulties. Sometimes I have to shrug off the mistakes and try not to worry when they are scrutinized by others who are better quilters.  I think of how much work still went into the planning and the piecing and figure - so what? In the big scheme of things, this imperfect quilt means much more to me than someone's critical words or looks. I'm the one who has to live with it as a reminder that I'm human, that I will always need to continue to strive to be better. I know we can all be a little critical of our own work. But someone who criticizes others' work rather than champion their attempts has to live with that attitude that she has to prove she's somehow better than everyone else (and you know where that attitude comes from). I've met people like this and you probably have too. They're rarely happy with anything other than making others feel bad. I've never met a critical person who is a happy person or knows how to make others happy. I also know which type of person I'd rather be or spend my time with.

Trying to live up to other people's perfectionistic standards just "ain't" worth the headache.
That woman at the workshop inspires me today when I think about her. She was sooo proud of herself and I was too. No, her quilt wasn't perfect, but it was still beautiful. I could see the pride and sense of satisfaction in her eyes when she showed it to me. To me, that's what quilting is all about.

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A reminder -  the beautiful Quilted Koala boxes you saw on my blog are available for purchase on their website. Just because you didn't win one doesn't mean you don't deserve to buy one for yourself   : )