The Final Stop for Art Quilts of the Midwest—the Texas Quilt Museum

In August I had the opportunity to visit the Texas Quilt Museum in LaGrange. (I was in Texas to speak to the Lone Star Quilt Study Group, but more on that later.)  I’ve written about the museum and visited once, last February, but this time it was personal—Art Quilts of the Midwest is on display there through the end of September.

The exhibition space is beautiful and I loved seeing some quilts hung on an exposed brick wall in the airy gallery. I talked with a lovely employee (whose name I swore I wouldn’t forget, but have) and thoroughly enjoyed “saying goodbye” to the pieces in the show—this is the last of the four exhibitions based on Art Quilts of the Midwest.

When I wrote that book I never imagined it would lead to exhibitions at four museums (the International Quilt Study Center and Museum, the National Quilt Museum, and the Iowa Quilt Museum) and their curators, that I would be listed as a guest curator at two of them, and that I would get to help hang a show at one. Though I’ve met only a handful of the 20 artists represented in the book, I’ve spoken and corresponded with them all over the past five years and learned so much about their creative processes and by continuing to follow their careers.

Having a vocation that lets me “look behind the curtain,” to ask questions about what makes creative people tick, expands my life exponentially and for that I am truly grateful.

There is an unexpected coda to this story, though. Little did I imagine during the visit on that hot, hot Texas day that just a week later parts of LaGrange would be underwater. Though the museum was uphill from the river, museum staff and volunteers sandbagged the doors and raised the quilts up high via their pulley system. Power was lost. I was grateful to the curator, Sandra Sider, for taking the time to keep me informed in the midst of all the issues surrounding Hurricane Harvey. In the end, the museum was spared and they are working to reduce humidity in the building. You can read about it in this letter from museum founders Karey Bresenhan and Nancy Puentes.

If you’re in the area, I encourage you to visit as soon as they reopen. The exhibition (and two others, including some gorgeous, traditional quilts from the International Quilt Study Center and Museum) are on display through October 1.

Sewing Extremes

For quite some time now, I’ve been making hexagons. I even taught a hexagon class at Home Ec. But I haven’t done much else. This weekend, however, I did get a little sewing in, and I chose to sew two challenging substrates—one super stiff (oilcloth) and one loosely woven, with little body (gauze).

Students’ hexagons

I’ve sewn lots with oilcloth previously, but after being plied with cerveza in Oaxaca, I promised my traveling companions that I’d make them oilcloth table runners with oilcloth we bought at the Benito Juarez and Abastos markets. It’s a pretty simple job, really—they just had to bring me the dimensions of the runners they wanted, along with their oilcloth and some bias seam binding.

Karen picked two fabrics that are wonderful complements and I made her what seems to be more of a tablecloth (it’s 39″ wide by the width of the fabric). It was pretty much a piece of cake—those Clover clips really make it so much simpler to attach the seam binding than the hair clips I used to use. But the darned thing was so stiff and unwieldy that I had a little trouble—periodically as I’d sew I’d run into something on my sewing table and essentially sew in place until I realized what was happening. In the end, though, it turned out nicely.

Next up was gauze (and not double gauze, which I’ve used for tops and has a bit more body). It’s become so popular for making baby blankets and we had a slow week at Home Ec (half the population away on spring break), so I started a sample at work. I thought I’d cut the gauze square, but after I brought it home to finish it I realized it was far from square—what started at 50″ wound up at 42″ by the time I was done, and it’s still not totally square. One of the tutorials I read mentioned sewists who insist upon perfection may not enjoy sewing with gauze.) I ultimately used the tutorial from Sew to Speak as my guide.

Making continuous bias binding from a square—I used a Heather Ross lawn from Wyndham—is rather miraculous, but tedious nevertheless. The Sew to Speak tutorial links to this tutorial. I had done it before, but the method is not very intuitive and so a visual reminder was helpful.

Attaching the binding required lots and lots of pins and I worried about whether I’d caught the elusive gauze all the way around (I did). Like much of sewing, I swore I’d never do it again while I was doing it, but the end result is so cute that I’d be tempted. And the 23″ piece I cut is enough to make bias binding for two blankets, so I probably ought to try again, if for no other reason than to use up the binding. It felt good to finish two tasks and spend time in my sewing room—it’s definitely been awhile.

.

Art Quilts of the Midwest is Launched!

I really will post soon about something other than Art Quilts of the Midwest. But last night Codi held a book launch party at Home Ec Workshop and it was so much fun for me. There were lots of friends, old (as in 20+ years old) and new (people I’ve met while working at Home Ec) and in between. There were several folks that I was especially touched to see, including a group of my former colleagues from my days at the University of Iowa. Several of us had made quilts for one another for significant life events (here, and herehere).

Here Codi and I look oddly formal (considering that I must have hugged her 27 times over the evening). But she gave me this bouquet of daffodils tulips and I wanted to include it in the picture. She put so much effort into the evening, and I was so grateful.

This was the only shot I got of Erick, and we didn’t get one of Astrid (the book’s foreword author) at all. She and I each said a few words about our involvement in the book, and Erick showed a portion of the film he’s made about his work that included the pieces he has in the book.

The funny part was that the crowd was so much larger than anticipated and we realized we wouldn’t fit into the workroom. So Codi, Astrid, and I delivered our remarks from Home Ec’s kitchen, and Erick showed his film in shifts in the workshop. Our friends listened patiently and there were so many great comments about Erick’s film.

Emily, in the black and white jacket, was one of the book’s jurors

It was an evening that reminded me how much the Midwest has given me. Though I rant and rave every year about my dislike of the cold and the snow, the community that is Iowa City makes me so very happy. As Astrid said in her remarks, it’s a place filled with people who are hidden gems doing surprising things, and having this group of artists, professors, shop owners, scientists, realtors, poets, graphic designers, knitters extraordinaire, biologists, etc. come out to support the book meant so very much.

Art Quilts of the Midwest: The First Copy Has Arrived!

Last week, just before leaving for QuiltCon, I got an email from the University of Iowa Press saying that one copy of my book was available for me to pick up. It was a Monday and I’d been back for two days from Minnesota and was leaving in a day for Austin. I was harried, so I didn’t respond right away. I was also afraid. There’s this kind of magic time in between when you write a book and make your edits and hand it all over to the designer and the Press. You can say “I’ve got a book coming out,” and everyone is very encouraging and excited and it’s easy, because it’s all out of your hands. Though I’ve definitely been doing some marketing work, it really just an idea of a book because the physical object didn’t yet exist.

But apparently it now it did. When I talked to my husband and told him it was there he said “If you don’t get it, I will!” That would have been a little embarrassing, so off I went. It was kind of a quiet visit—I guess I thought everyone might come out and cheer or something—but it was nevertheless wonderful. I gave Karen, the production manager, a hug because she did so much work to make it so lovely and because it was so amazing to hold it in my hands I just had to hug someone.

Then I took it home and put it in a plastic bag and ran around frantically packing and watering plants and doing last minute errands. I really didn’t look at it until I was on the plane. There was a lovely, satisfying moment when I pulled it out (and secretly hoped that my seat mate would ask me about it—no such luck) and paged though it and felt the “book-ness” of it. And for the next four days I carried it around, whipping out my book-in-a-baggie and whenever appropriate (and sometimes even when it wasn’t appropriate, just because I couldn’t help myself).

I’ll share more about the book itself, but for now know that it will be available in the next week or so at Prairie Lights, if you’re local or through your local bookstore (you can ask them to order it), on Amazon, and through the Press. I hope you’ll take a look!