Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Playing with Blocks

I'm playing with fabric scraps and making blocks these days. The more I play, the more inspired I get. I wish I could show you what I'm working on for the new book but it's a big secret. I'm pretty good at keeping secrets, though, and you'll all have to wait awhile to see a finished product. That means no inspiring photos for awhile either.

Wonder what shape these will eventually take? Can I fit them into a quilt somewhere? Do pink and purple and green really go together?

Here's a block I decided NOT to use in a quilt. Too matchy for me I think so I "scrapped" it. Like those prints though and will use them somewhere else.

I finished making a couple of small quilts already and, along with making and finishing the other quilts, I have to write the patterns and draw the step-by-step sketches of the projects so the designers at Martingale & Co. can eventually translate them into illustrations so you can figure out how to make them too. Here's a design sketch from my last book, Remembering Adelia, not the one I'm working on now, to give you an idea of how a book comes together. There will be 16 projects in the new book, so I have to make a series of these little drawings for each project, check and recheck and then draw new ones when I find a mistake, which I almost always do. This part and writing the actual instructions is hard for me and I have to stay focused and make sure I don't leave anything out.

The older I get, the harder it is to filter out distractions, of which there are many in the summertime. Aside from kids and playful, barking dogs, simply having to work at home is a distraction. I keep telling my husband I need a studio like the "real" quilt designers have. Maybe in a secluded woods somewhere (difficult, since we live in typical Midwest suburbia). He tells me we'll work on that when we're finished with college tuition (six more years!) and if and when I get over the starving artist phase of my career (craft book authors make very little money, sorry to say, but it's the truth--it's all fame and glory, unless I'm missing something and nobody told ME about the BIG advances other authors get).

Some days the writing part goes like this:

Clearly, that part is hard, too. The only easy part is playing with the fabric and putting colors together and choosing which prints I'll use in a quilt.

Our typical '60s suburban colonial, probably older and smaller than most, needs some work. The gutter guys were here last week making all sorts of noise putting up much-needed $$ gutters $$. My brother-in-law Steve the painter guy is still scraping and painting the outside windows and trim, which means I will NOT have a quiet house for a few more days. I'd be lost without my ipod while I work.

Steve the painter guy helping us make it look a little better (it was looking like those shabby, distressed antique furniture pieces, which I love, just not so chic, especially the shutters):

Andy, Steve's painting partner, looking much happier than I'd look if I had to work so hard on the outside of my house:

I'm counting on my ipod to save me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Getting a Little Culture

I visited the Art Institute of Chicago last week with my 20-year-old son. The new Modern Wing of the museum opened in May, at a cost of $300 million, and it's something to see. He took an art history class last year and became excited about modern art. Although he had already seen the new wing earlier in the summer, he was convinced that I needed a break from work and that I would enjoy a trip to the city and benefit from a day off.

Okay, I have been a little crabby lately. Like a lot of working moms, I'm trying to juggle working at home with 2 kids underfoot all of the time (and what seems like 40 of their friends at any given moment) or driving the one that doesn't drive somewhere every 15 seconds. Granted, they're not toddlers and there aren't eight of them, but even though they're older, they make their presence and needs known and they still need me around. It is not quiet at my house. And let's not forget the playful puppy, who's recovering from an ovariohysterectomy and needs to be kept "quiet" for 10 days (how do you keep a puppy quiet??), requires a huge amount of attention daily and, on top of it, keeps stealing my fabric bundles from a basket on the floor near my sewing table (trust me, no room ON the table) then races around the house until I can catch her.

What's making things even worse is that my husband's job at present requires him to travel Monday through Friday until the middle of October. So yeah, I'm a little crabby. Not exactly Civil War widow crabby for being left alone penniless on the farm, but still--things are definitely tougher without a little help with the normal, everyday household chores he's very good at executing. (Hugs, hon, if you're reading this!) It WAS time for a break and I jumped at the chance to take a pleasant day trip with my first born before he goes back to school. Oh, he said, if we did go, it would be a good opportunity for me to buy him lunch at a nice restaurant on Michigan Ave. I didn't tell him I planned a stop at the textile room to see quilts.

We live about 25 miles north of Chicago and now that the kids are older it seems we don't take advantage of the wonderful local museums like we once did. The Art Institute has always been one of my favorites. I love that it has so many classic works and houses a diverse collection of paintings, prints & drawings and ranks right up there with the other great art museums in the US.

Strolling down Michigan Ave looking for a restaurant, I remembered an entry in Adelia's diary and for a few seconds was struck by how different Adelia may have experienced the city in 1861, when she traveled by train from a small town in northern Illinois to see the State Fair, which was held in Chicago that year. The Art Institute opened as the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts on May 24, 1879, eighteen years later, and some eight years after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, which destroyed much of the city--17,450 buildings in 27 hours, 250 people perished. One-third of the city's population lost their homes. Adelia's diary entry for Sept 11, 1861, reads:

"Sept 11, 1861

"Laura, Alice, Em and I all went to Chicago to the State Fair. Father, Mother, Edwin's folks, Jo and Alf were on the train. Us girls splurged round town that day and did not go to the fairgrounds on account of the mud. Went in the courthouse observatory and on Michigan Avenue. Felt pretty much tired out. Staid with Alice at their cousins Mr Andrus on State St. Went to prayer meeting in the evening."

We couldn't have picked a better day though--sunny and warm but not too hot. We even found a moderate-priced restaurant.

The bridge/walkway that connects the Modern Wing to the Cloud Gate sculpture in Chicago's Millenium Park offers great views of the city.

I was impressed by everything my son learned in his art class. I'm not afraid to admit that I'm old-fashioned and favor the classics (the museum has a great collection of Impressionist paintings) over contemporary art (his favorite). So, for a change, it was nice to share our likes and dislikes with each other without a single argument. The bad news was that the textile room was closed and undergoing renovation, so no quilts on exhibit. Nobody seemed to know when it would reopen.

It's always exhilarating to see famous works by the great masters up close. Room after room of awe-inspiring talent. Like Adelia, however, by the end of the day, I was pretty much tired out myself.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Remembering Adelia Club

Summertime and I'm busier than ever when I'd love to be lounging at some beach or combing the thrift shops. I spent time today organizing materials for the Remembering Adelia Club that some quilt shops are offering to customers this fall. It's a 6-month club that gives quilters a chance to get together on a monthly basis and make some of the little quilts from my new book. I did the same thing with my other two books, Prairie Children & Their Quilts and American Doll Quilts, as well and quilters really enjoyed it. Quilters tell me that sometimes it's a little easier to actually make the quilts if you have a plan and work alongside other quilters with the same interests. You don't really want that wonderful book to just sit on the shelf of your sewing room, do you?

Members need to purchase the book when they join and then stitch along with other quilters once a month while the teacher gives a little lesson on life and quilting during the Civil War.

Did you know that while a huge percentage of men from both sides were away during the war, the women were left behind to manage not only the homes, but the farms and businesses too, making life extremely difficult for most of them? Women may not have been active on the battlefield, but they certainly experienced the repercussions of the war. How were their lives affected in other ways? Adelia tells HER story.

If you're a shop owner, e-mail me if you'd like to begin a club at your shop. If you're "just" a quilter and need inspiration to make a few of the quilts or sewing accessories from Remembering Adelia, tell your local shop about it or offer to help them organize one. Or e-mail me to see if there's a shop in your area that's starting a club. What's more fun than getting together with other quilters to make a little quilt from the book? Ok, I can think of a few things, but none where you learn a little bit about history and get a free pincushion pattern too.

What a great way to get started making some of your favorite little quilts from the book and also see how other quilters' projects turn out. It's always fun to see how everyone interprets the quilts differently to make them uniquely their own.

These "housewife" needle cases make great gifts for friends.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Pug Came to Visit

My sister-in-law Judy is the ultimate animal lover--3 dogs, a horse, a cat, and assorted small "wild" animals in her backyard. My daughter takes after her and has started volunteering at a local animal shelter. Recently, Judy was asked to "babysit" a pug puppy for a week and gave us the treat of a play date with our 2 puppies. Wilbur is the sweetest little dog--look at that face!

Ophelia (Lia), our maltipoo pup, was excited to meet a dog her own size:

Everybody played for hours.

But I'd think I'd better watch my Caitie or we'll end up with 3 dogs ourselves!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Hollyhocks and Doll Quilts

Every summer I'm pleasantly surprised to see the hollyhocks bloom in my front garden again. I have a fear that one year they'll just say: "Enough beauty already, we're done." They look even better with a coordinating doll quilt, don't you think?.

Here's the word--doll quilts are not just for dolls anymore! They have a particular appeal to those of us who have fond memories of playing with dolls as young girls (or maybe boys, too!). Many of the patterns for doll quilts in my first book, American Doll Quilts, were inspired by antique doll quilts, although they aren't exactly replicas of real doll quilts. Doll quilts from long ago were played with until they fell apart and that's why they're so rare today--not many survived the wear and tear.

Sue from Indiana, who's in my SmallQuiltTalk group, brought some of her antique doll quilts to show us in the workshops I taught in Indiana last week. Don't you just love them to pieces?

I met another quilter from Marion, Indiana, who wanted to show me HER doll quilts:

This is the back of the hexagons doll quilt:

Here's another one:

It's fun to imagine what kinds of quilts children may have made and played with long ago and making little scrappy ones like these certainly brings the past alive, doesn't it?

This is one of the first doll quilts I made from simple nine-patch blocks. I was pretty much a beginner when I made it but I think my crooked seams really add to the overall antique doll quilt look, don't you think? Some of you reading this are probably fantastic quilters and you'd have to work really hard to get that naive, childlike look. It comes naturally to me, LOL.

Kathy's Excellent Quilting Adventure

Just got back from Marion, Indiana, where I taught some classes at the Quilters Hall of Fame Celebration. They were honoring the induction of Merikay Waldvogel as well as celebrating Marie Webster's 150th birthday and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Quilters Hall of Fame. Marie Webster was the first "Quilting Celebrity" and an influential quilt designer of the early 1900s. She wrote the first book on quilting in 1915--the first history of quilts. She started a successful quilt pattern business after her designs were featured in the Ladies Home Journal in 1911 and is thought by many to be responsible for the 20th century quilting revival. Marie made her first quilt when she was fifty. Seeing some of her original floral appliqué designs up close was truly inspiring. Here are a few of my favorites:

The classes I taught were held in a classroom at the local middle school. There were quite a few other classes and workshops held throughout the 3-day event as well as lectures, auctions, Marie's quilts on exhibit at the Marion library and an exhibit of some of the quilts in Merikay Waldvogel's antique quilt collection. Eleanor Burns, Barbara Brackman and Nancy Odom were teaching as well. Wish I had been able to take some classes myself.

Wait, who's that in the back of the class I'm teaching???

Imagine my surprise when I walked in and found that ELEANOR BURNS signed up to take my class!! We had a lot of fun with her that day and she gave us a few tips as well. Wonder if she learned anything by making my scrappy little doll quilt??? LOL.

Here's one of my favorite quilts from Merikay Waldvogel's antique quilt collection:

Later that evening, there was a garden party dinner under a tent, amid beautiful gardens and a waterfall:

All in all, an excellent adventure and one I won't forget for a long time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Exciting News

Yesterday was pretty exciting--I heard that my proposal for a new book I've been working on recently was accepted by my publisher! I turned in the proposal to Martingale & Co. last month and I've been waiting to hear ever since, even though I know it takes them awhile to present it before the editorial committee and make a decision on whether or not it will sell (the bottom line).

It takes a long time to pull everything together and the book will probably not be out until early 2011. It took me weeks to write the proposal. After a lot of "pondering" I finally got an outline of the chapters and the projects I wanted to include. Then I used Electric Quilt to design 10 of the quilts to give them an idea of the projects I had in mind.

So now I have to fill in all the gaps and actually write the book and make 16 quilts. Yikes! It's always exciting but scary too. I'm always afraid that I won't like the quilts after I've made them, and what if nobody else does either?

I've been collecting wonderful fabrics for the last few months in anticipation of using them in some of the quilts. Along with a "few" of my scraps, LOL.

Now, time to get to work!