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!

Double-cross Quilt

My 8 small cross blocks

I’ll hold off on sharing my shirt, because it needs some size adjustment (just learned the acronym FBA—full bust adjustment—which is what apparently I need to do to take in the excess under the arms while still making it fit across my chest).

Erick “squaring up” my blocks—a relative term for this quilt

But I’m happy to share the finished quilt top I made for my class with Erick Wolfmeyer at Home Ec. I was having one of those days when my brain just wasn’t firing on all cylinders and Erick helped me out—cutting and ripping.

Emily and her scrap quilt—she’s wearing a skirt stitched from one of the quilt fabrics

We all arrived in class with our 8 small crosses (and a few of us had 9 and had to decide which one to omit). Then it was time to decide on fabrics for the big crosses and how to arrange the 8 small ones. All of this required a lot of shifting and standing back and squinting. But each of us (save one person who had to leave early) finished our tops. It was a great lesson in color and in loosening up, as the quilt’s so wonky. I love how differently they all turned out! And once again Erick was terrific—and even stayed late so we could go home with finished tops.

Maureen and her butterscotch and blue quilt
Lisa and her neutrals—she’s going to make 4 more for a queen-sized quilt

I still feel a little like I’ve made a quilt for a clown (baby), but Erick said it reminded him of the alebrijes I have all over my house, and that made me feel that perhaps I have a consistent (highly colorful) aesthetic.

My finished top

It Never Rains but It Pours

That old saying certainly applies to Iowa City weather just now. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the roses as beautiful as they are this year and it suddenly dawned on me that it’s because the climate is mimicking Portland’s (aka The City of Roses) to a tee—cool temps, cloudy skies, and plenty of moisture. This rose was climbing up a trellis at a friend’s home.

But the phrase also applies to my current forays into sewing. I’m still working to finish a many-pieced quilt, but couldn’t resist taking a pair of Home Ec classes. On Saturday I attended the first session of a quilt class taught by Erick Wolfmeyer, about whom I’ve had the opportunity to write a couple of times (here’s one of them). He taught a pattern by a designer whom I was unfamiliar with, but whose work I’m loving—Pam Rocco.

Erick’s got a terrific color sense and having him help sort through our fabrics was fantastic. I somehow had far more fabric than anyone else…now how could that be possible?

Here’s a shot of each of our first blocks—one person’s working in neutrals, one in all prints, one in batiks. Guess what? I’m working in brights. At one point I said I felt like I was making a quilt for a clown. We’ll see how it shakes out. Session two is next Saturday.

On Thursday I took a class in which we made the Colette Sorbetto top. It’s a free, downloadable pattern, but it’s been so long since I made any clothing (especially any that fit, save the bias skirt I made at Home Ec), that I wanted help with that aspect of things. I’ll post more on that next time, but suffice it to say, I’m loving it. Forget cooking, gardening, exercising, and working…Can I please just sew all the time?

Spring Quilt Market Update #2

The adventure continues…

By the time we got our act together to organize our trip, hotels near the Portland Convention Center were full. But Greta got us a lovely condo across the river and each morning we got to cross this bridge. It enabled us to see geese, rowers, bicyclists, and a section of the Portland marathon. (The biggest challenge was crossing the morning of the Heartlandia walk. Literally thousands of people were walking in the opposite direction, but we managed to part the sea of humanity and cross over.)

Here’s more of what I saw at Market:

Echino bags in the Seven Islands booth
Loved the subtle piecing on these Seven Islands aprons
Neons from Michael Miller. I was standing next to one of the women from the Portland Modern Quilt guild who had stitched two of the quilt’s blocks but never seen the completed top. She was so excited to see her work on display.
Tula Pink’s booth
Super-excited to meet Sherri McConnell of A Quilting Life. We both blog for Moda’s Cutting Table, but had never met in person. She’s a real sweetie and was helping Camille Roskelly with her booth (and had sewn some quilts for her, including the one she’s standing by, above).
Fig Tree Quilts booth
Each fabric collection shown in Free Spirit’s booth included a piece of clothing stitched from the collection—garments were a true trend at Market.( That’s Amy Butler on the left, checking out a visitor’s bracelet.)
And not exactly part of the garment trend, but this incredible selvedge dress was the star of RicRac’s booth 
Iowa, represent! We join our other eastern Iowa buddy Vanessa Christensen, in her Simply Style booth (and check out her dress—she added a strip of her fabric to the bottom of a Target dress—she’s not just cute, she’s’ clever). 
Loved the big stitching on this quilt by Jen Kingwell
The garment theme continues at Monaluna’s booth
Butterflies flit across the walls of the Art Gallery Pure Elements booth
Nobody uses color and pattern quite like Sandy Klop of American Jane (for Moda)
Another Market trend was pink and orange. Here, Kanvas fabrics did it up with festive tissue-paper flowers.
When Market ended, we treated ourselves to a day-and-a-half of play in Portland. One of our first stops was Cargo, in the Pearl District, which offered an incredible array of Asian antiques and imports, with prices that ranged from less than a dollar to thousands.

Cargo whistles

We sampled the beer at a couple of brew pubs, including Deschutes, where we stopped for lunch.

We stopped at Front Porch, which has a sister store in Des Moines, and ran our fingers over the blankets.
The next day we had some fantastic Indian food at Bollywood Theater

And we ended our day at the Rose Garden.

Thanks, Portland, for a lovely week! And thanks, too, to the folks who work so hard to make Quilt Market happen. It was great to go, and great to be home.

Quilt Market update coming!

I promise, it’s on the way. But I also covered Quilt Market for True Up and Quilt Country and I have a few deadlines I need to hit. So while you’re waiting, check out my post on True Up about Penguin and Fish, longtime favorites. Alyssa’s designs captivated me the first time I saw her at Market and she and her husband Jon are great people, too.

One of my favorite designs of Alyssa’s was this cheerful budgie, which prompted some memories. When my husband and I were first married we got a blue parakeet and named him Floyd, (after the barber on Andy of Mayberry, of course). I’d never had a bird and couldn’t imagine they’d have much personality, but boy was I wrong. Floyd would perch on our shoulders and loved to play fight with my pen when I was trying to pay bills or write letters. One sad night we left both his cage and a screen-less window open and in the morning Floyd was gone. I posted Missing signs on telephone poles and walked around the neighborhood for days, calling “Floyd, Floyd” up into treetops. Unfortunately, it rained for three days straight after his escape and we figured he wouldn’t have lasted long in that, although he was so friendly I thought he might land on someone’s shoulder. We consoled ourselves by thinking about the incredible rush he must have felt when he flew out that third floor window and soared for blocks.

Thanks, Alyssa, for reminding us of Floyd.

Color and Texture: Spain

Walkway in Ronda

I had the great good fortune of accompanying my husband to a meeting in Southern Spain last week. We spent nine days visiting Malaga, Seville, Granada, and Ronda (part of that was meeting-time, of course, but I didn’t have to go to the meeting). The opportunity to go on these trips reminds me of what’s good about freelancing and a flexible schedule…

Dresses in the Paul Nunez shop in Seville

The Moorish influence in this region (Andalusia) meant lots of beautiful tile work that I knew would remind me of quilts. What I didn’t know was that the streets and sidewalks would all be beautifully patterned with rocks. Seriously, I don’t think I walked on a solid surface the entire time.

Sidewalk in Nerja

 The other thing we didn’t know was that it was Holy Week, or Semana Santa. The frightening-looking costumes belong not to a race-based organization, but are Nazarenes. The other stunning thing were the floats featuring life-sized, wood-carved Biblical scenes decorated with incredible silver and embroidered textiles, that were carried through the streets, sometimes for hours. The young man below is one of those carrying a float.

Hope you enjoy these!

Float carrier takes a break during a procession in Malaga
Nazarenes in Malaga procession
Nazarenes in Malaga procession
Float of the Virgin Mary being carried through the streets in Malaga
Malaga float detail
Will it rain? Float carrier in Malaga wonders
Nazarenes in Granada
Detail from the Alhambra in Granada
Arches in the Alhambra in Granada
View through the Ronda city walls
Granada windows
Shawl shop in Seville
Traditional Spanish dresses in Seville shop
Shawl detail: hand embroidered
Sevilla detail 
Sidewalk in Seville
Floor in Seville
Seville garden
Seville tile

Textiles Influence Painter Chuck Close

Phil (2011-12) by Chuck Close: work and detail

If you’ve spent any time at art museums, you’ve undoubtedly seen the work of Chuck Close. I’m always taken aback when I round a corner and see one of his early, photo-realistic faces staring down at me—they’re huge (his 1968 Big Self Portrait (below), which I first saw at the Walker Art Museum when I was in college, is nearly 9’x7′).

So yesterday I was reading Spark: How Creativity Works by Julie Burstein, when I came upon a chapter about Chuck Close and his creative process (I am loving this book, by the way—based on the Studio 360 radio show, which despite being an avid NPR listener I’ve never heard). Close talks about the way that, because he is learning disabled, he has always created his paintings with a grid. Early on, it served to break the huge portraits into manageable chunks and for many years he would erase the grid (like he did in Big Self Portrait). But eventually he incorporated it into his work. Over time, the photorealism of his images—which had been created with tiny, tiny dots and brushstrokes—gave way to a more expressive way of painting, in which the faces in his paintings are evident if you stand way back, but up close they’re hard to see. And lo and behold, he credits the textile arts as an influence.

Chuck Close, Self-Portrait II, 2001

“I know that one of the important primal experiences for me as a child was watching my grandmother knit and crochet and make quilts and afghans and things like that, which look a lot like my work today. She would crochet pieces and put them together to make even bigger pieces. A lot of what I do has a lot to do with what was called women’s work—a process that you sign on to and you keep working at it until you get something. I think it has a lot to do with construction, and I try to build a painting rather than paint it.”

Agnes, 1998

Of course, if you look at Close’s work it’s easy to see this, but it somehow hadn’t crossed my mind. I got mighty excited knowing that Close’s commanding works have their roots in his grandmother’s tiny stitches, proof that however simple or mundane your work might seem, you never know the influence it can have.

Fabric Smack-down!

So those half-square triangles hit the mailbox on Tuesday, and it was something of a relief to have them out of the house. Soon another 1400 will take their place and I’ll be contemplating ways to sew them together. But for now I’ve got another many-pieced project on the brain.

In January I took a workshop through my local guild with Bill Kerr of Modern Quilt Studio.  I’ve interviewed Bill’s wife and business partner Weeks Ringle for American Patchwork and Quilting, and wrote a story about them both for Magic Patch. I love their work and how thoughtful they are about the design and coloration of their quilts. Plus they’re friendly, funny, down-to-earth folks.

Fabric Fusion

For the workshop, Bill had us bring an assortment of fabrics and we teamed up with someone we didn’t know well and had a “fabric smack-down.” Bill said he and Weeks do this when deciding on fabrics for a quilt, alternating fabric choices and describing why each might work with the others. It was a real challenge: my partner Jean is a batik-lover and my stack consisted mostly of bright and bold pieces. So when she laid down a leafy batik, I laid the Brandon Mabley piece (above) on top of it. We both laughed in surprise—not a combo that either one of us would have thought of on our own, but one that seemed to work.

My Fabric Fusion palette

I took that same piece of fabric and decided to develop a palette around it and make their Fabric Fusion quilt from the February 2012 American Patchwork and Quilting. One of Bill’s and Week’s strengths is combining unexpected fabrics—Jo Morton calicos with contemporary David Butler lines. So while I found 26 of the fabrics to use in my stash they were mostly brights and I had to buy just a few more to round out the look. Here’s what I’ve come up with…are there any that you’d remove from this fabric smack down? There are one or two I’m not quite sure of, but maybe they provide the foil that makes the others work…let me know what you think!

Monica Lee’s Smart Creative Women

Just a quick post to let you know about a web TV show worth watching. It’s Monica Lee’s Smart Creative Women. I met Monica at Quilt Market a year ago, after I’d attended her Schoolhouse session on social media marketing. It was one of the most useful sessions I’d been to and when I saw her on the Market floor I stopped to let her know.

Turns out Monica is delightful to chat with and you can see that when you watch her show—she’s funny, loves to laugh, and is truly herself. I first watched the show when UPPERCASE‘s Janine VanGool was a guest and have since found myself regularly tuning back in. Most recently I turned on my computer, got out my knitting, and watched her two-part interview with Amy Butler. There was a lot of honesty and interesting stuff going on between Monica and Amy in those sessions. Monica’s enthusiasm seems to bring out the humanity of her interviewees, even those I think of as industry icons (she gets amazing guests—I especially loved the Jenny Doh session). So check out Smart Creative Women! (I’m not getting anything for saying this—Monica doesn’t know I’ve posted it. I just think it’s a worthwhile, inspiring, and refreshing show and you might think so too.)

Quilt Market Houston 2012

Codi and Greta at Quilt Market

Made it home on Monday from Quilt Market (unlike many folks from the East Coast, who had their flights canceled). It was, as always, a visual whirlwind, as well as a time to reconnect with friends old and new. I especially enjoy meeting in person the people with whom I’ve had email and phone relationships. This time around I met Amber Eden, the editor of Stitch. We bonded over our journalism backgrounds and agreement on who was might be Quilt Market’s newest “It” couple (Julie and Eric Comstock).

I traveled and roomed with Codi and Greta and spent quality time with Mel and Mary Lou. It felt a little rushed this year, as though I had a day less than I usually do. Here are photos of some of my favorite things this time around.

Marny of Modern Quilt Relish talks about their new BOM (while Jill holds it up)
Michael Miller’s fashion forecast included jewel tones, pastels, and neon
Alexander Henry‘s booth was a little simpler this year, but still lovely
Amy Butler‘s new line for Renaissance Ribbons rested in vintage cigar boxes
I was in love with Anna Griffin’s Blend lines—so many outstanding designers and a partnership with designers and Etsy shop owners—want to make a project with their fabric? Just ask. 
Designer Jessica Swift’s Blomma line–one of the lovely Blend collections from Anna Griffin
I liked Brigette Heitland‘s Zen Chic Juggling Summer collection for  Moda even more than her last. These quilts were outstanding
Carolyn Friedlander and her Architextures collection were one of the biggest hits of Market. The quilt is from a Jaybird Quilts pattern
Echino eye candy at the Seven Islands booth 
Detail of some of the Echino bags at Seven Islands‘ booth
Fairfield created a natural wonderland entirely from batting and interfacing
Greta Songe’s Studio 37 collections for Marcus Fabrics–Adorable!
Benartex’s Kanvas Studios fabrics won a ribbon for their bright booth
Lisa Bongean’s luscious wools. Always so tempted, but I’ve yet to figure out what to make with them
Have long loved Marcia Derse’s fabrics for Troy, and she’s so much fun to talk with—fresh, honest, simply who she is
Moda brought in a vintage Airstream to celebrate designer Mary Jane Butters Glamping line
I thought Melody Miller’s booth should have won an award…such vintage good cheer
Moda’s well-deserved blue ribbon hangs on their booth-of-many-colors featuring hundreds of paint-dipped stirrers, paint cans, pantone tablecloths and “paint”-dripped chair covers, along with fantastic sample quilts.