Quilts, Burritos, and Naked Men

Just a quick note to share with you something that has left me chuckling. No, I would say it’s more like guffawing. And I figured there was no better way for you to start the day than with a similar emotion.

So I share with you Megan Dougherty’s Quilter’s Shirtless Man and Spicy Burrito calendar. The concept came to her when she decided to combine all the things she loved and her blog readers pitched in to help, with photos of…shirtless men (sometimes pants-less, too) posing with quilts and spicy burritos. It could be the perfect gift for someone you know. Especially if that person loves quilts, spicy burritos, and men. The photos are priceless. There are so many wonderfully goofy people in the world and this proves it. I love it.

Proceeds from the calendar go to Megan’s brother, who is very ill, and his family. Megan is a wonderfully hilarious writer, but she also articulately expresses the poignancy of life. I’d highly recommend a reading of her blog The Bitchy Stitcher. (She puts a warning about foul language in the blog header—if that offends you, you may want to pass. But if not, click through to that blog immediately.)

Art Quilts of the Midwest

Friday was an exciting day. I finally sent out numerous Calls for Entry for my upcoming book, which has been in the talking and planning stages for over a year. The working title is Art Quilts of the Midwest and I’ll be working with the University of Iowa Press.

I’m very excited that visual artists Mary Merkel-Hess and Emily Martin will be jurying submissions with me and art quilter Astrid Bennett will be writing the foreword.

If you or anyone you know might be interested, below is a brief description of eligibility and how to submit work for consideration. All this information and more can be found on the UI Press home page. Once you’re there, click the quilt block button (same image as the block on this post) on the left side of the page. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

An adventure begins!

•Seeking submissions from Midwestern art quilters with an emphasis on quilts whose creation was inspired by life in the Midwest. Quilters are free to define aspects of “Midwesterness,” be they physical, environmental, emotional, etc., which affect their work. Artists must reside in the Midwest, defined for this book as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Submit up to three quilts, original work completed after 1/1/09. Book to be published in print and digital editions. 

A Quilt for a Farmer

While I was growing up, one of my favorite vacations was a visit to my aunt and uncle’s farm in Southern Minnesota.

They didn’t have children and my aunt had a reservoir of boundless patience, as well as lots of fun activities that were so different from those we engaged in at home. Aunt Marcia’s immense vegetable garden yielded veggies for canning and corn for eating nearly straight off the stalk. My uncle raised mostly corn and soy beans, but also had a few sheep and my sisters and I would trail them around the enclosed sheep yard, occasionally finding one tame enough to pet. We’d wander down by a nearby pond and pick up garter snakes and wrap them around our arms, like bracelets (I get a little freaked out just writing that). We’d open an empty grain bin and make a game of trying to stand upright on the thin layer of remaining, marble-like soy beans.

When my children were young they had the good fortune to engage in many of these same activities, as well as getting to see spring lambs. One of my favorite photos is a shot of each girl with a lamb that Uncle John (who my youngest dubbed “Bean-Bean” after the crops he grew) had momentarily wrested away from their mothers.

A number of years ago Uncle John was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and today he lives in a lovely facility near my aunt’s home. On our way back from the cabin this year I finally brought him a quilt I’d made this past year. It’s always tough to know what to get him for a gift and I hadn’t given him anything for the past few Christmases or birthdays (coincidentally, both on Dec. 25). He naps a lot and I thought a quilt might be something he could actually use.

The fabrics are Moda’s Holly Taylor and felt very farm-like to me, with earthy colors, fall leaves, and pheasants. The pattern is Arcadia from Mountaintop Creations and I bought it all years ago from Blue Bamboo. Longarmer Linda Kalbaugh, cleverly based her quilting on landform maps and I made a label of that favorite lamb photo. Uncle John seemed to really like it and I hope it will get used. On the label I thanked him for the memories he created for me and my family. Not lost on me is the irony that those same memories have been stolen from him—I hope the photo label might conjure for him those wonderful times.

In Praise of Iowa and Iowans, Old and New

I am not a native Iowan. I lived briefly in Minnesota, spent some time in Florida, and then moved to California when I was two. Although I left the Golden State when I married, my husband and I spent a few years in Northern California, where we bought a house and sent our kids to school, and my folks still live in Southern California.

Vanessa, Jenny, and Greta at Home Ec (Codi helping a customer, at left)

Though I’ve now lived in Iowa for more than two decades, the environment of my growing-up years is firmly embedded under my skin and in my soul. In my last post I mentioned the influence of Minnesota summers, but ocean colors, the scent of rosemary and eucalyptus, and the golden light of California all show up in my quilts and the colors and artwork in my home and wardrobe. I’ve never learned to like winter, and I still think of myself as essentially a Californian.

Vanessa’s fabrics, in stores in October—these colors are a hint that she’s also a Californian 

That said, I find myself fiercely defending Iowa in general and Iowa City in particular. There is an ease to living here that makes everyday life less draining—little traffic, the ability to do errands on foot or bike, the friendliness of everyday interactions that make daily life simple. There’s also much that’s stimulating—my neighbors and friends are writers, artists, yoga instructors, professors, musicians, doctors, editors, engineers—and walking Pearl sometimes takes three times as long as it should because of the engaging conversations that take place in a simple stroll around the block. The landscape takes a little more work to appreciate—no dramatic seascapes or mountain ranges that demand immediate and obvious awe—and that’s created in me an attention to detail and calm that enriches my life.

Jenny Instagramming, Greta in motion

So when someone moves to Iowa and struggles, as I most certainly did when I arrived, I feel compelled to serve as an ambassador. I know what it feels like to be a “foreigner”—where the architecture, flora, and even the bypassers smiling and saying “hi” feel unfamiliar and unsettling. I know what it’s like to not see the beauty of Iowa.

One of Jenny’s Wiksten patterns

So it was last week when I finally managed to get together a group of new Iowans. Vanessa, Jenny, Greta, and Codi are all from elsewhere—Greta and Codi have been around for awhile, but Vanessa and Jenny have just spend their first year here. We gathered for coffee, thrifting, lunch, and conversation, bonded by a love of sewing, design, fabric, and making things.

Greta’s upcoming Marcus fabrics

We visited Codi, took photos, and fondled textiles at Home Ec, admired Greta’s first line for Marcus, anticipated Vanessa’s about-to-hit-the shelves Moda fabrics, and discussed Jenny’s current patterns and those that are in the works. We went to some great thrift shops where Vanessa and I scored a few items, and had a lunch over which we discussed marriage, publishing, children, interns, and working alone. All the while, I found myself extolling the glories of Iowa. And I was reminded that one of them is the addition of talented women like these, who like me weren’t very sure when they arrived if they’d like it, but find themselves warming to its charms.

Where It All Comes From

I’ve just returned from nearly two weeks at our family cabin. My grandparents built the place in the 1950s and I’ve spent at least a bit of most of my summers there. This year the hot weather in most of the Midwest made for lovely lake weather and there was lots of kayaking, swimming, and simply floating around in an inner tube.

Because I’ve spent so much time at the cabin, it’s decor undoubtedly has had an influence on me. Certainly all the “folkloric” touches have been embedded in my psyche. And I find more and more that I’m drawn to red—I have a big red chair in my living room and red makes an appearance in most of my rugs, pillows, and much of the artwork in my home.

Here are some photos of the things I’ve seen nearly every summer of my life—the elegant, the funky, the international, the provincial. (Decorating still courtesy of my grandmother, who passed away more than 40 years ago. Some things never change, and the cabin often seems as though it’s frozen in time, which isn’t all bad.)