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.

QuiltCon 2015 Follow-up

It’s been a wonderful few days in Austin, where I’m attending QuiltCon.

Admiring City Center by Angie Henderson at the QuiltCon 2015 exhibition hall

There’s really nothing like being with folks who love what you do. On Thursday morning I started chatting with a young woman from Victoria, B.C., as we walked across the lobby floor. She said “I want to live here!” And I said “In Austin?” Her response was that the location didn’t matter so much, but she wanted to be with people who loved what she did on a day-to-day basis. She’d tried to describe her passion to her work colleagues, but they didn’t understand and were glad she was going where others did, because they’d heard enough. My guess is that she won’t stop talking when she returns—she may be so pumped full of enthusiasm that she makes a few quilting converts.

I may or may not have purchased some of this fabric at Stitch Lab’s booth in the vendor area

For coverage of QuiltCon, visit UPPERCASE’s blog—though she was on of the three jurors for QuiltCon (along with Carolyn Friedlander and Stevii Graves) UPPERCASE editor Janine Vangool wasn’t able to attend and asked me to to cover for her. You can find words and photos about QuiltCon 2015 here and here, with more to come.

String Piecing

Back in March I decided to try some string piecing. Not sure just what got me going, but I was having a good time of it. Over the next few weeks I plugged away, and wound up with 16 blocks. It got put on the back burner for awhile as writing projects intervened, but yesterday I got back at it and did another 8 blocks. (I must have done a few more in there somewhere because I have 43 blocks total.)

While I’m using true scraps—and having so much fun remembering just which projects the strips originally appeared in—I’m trying for a little consistency by including red and/or turquoise and/or black in every block. I’m piecing on newsprint, with a white strip diagonally centered on each square.
I’m using a 9.5 inch square ruler, so my blocks will finish at 9 (it’s the biggest one I have) and I’m trying to decide how big to make it. If I make it 7 blocks both ways, I’ll wind up with a 63″ square, but I might go with 8 blocks one way to make it long enough for a tall guy (like the one I’m married to) to cover up comfortably. I’m not even sure I’ll be keeping it though. 
Do you have a favorite/most useful size that you tend to make?

What’s keeping me BUSY

Poor, neglected blog. If there are any readers left out there, I certainly appreciate you! Here’s what’s been keeping me busy:

1. I’m working on a book with the tentative title of Art Quilts of the Midwest: publication date is March, 2015. I’m interviewing and writing a bio of each of the 20 artists whose work will be included—there were close to 100 entries—and have yet to talk with one who hasn’t taught me something new, provided an interesting perspective on art and place, and been kind and lovely to “meet.”

2. The spring issue of Stitch includes a couple pieces I wrote: an article on cross-stitch (loved learning that history) and a back-page essay about sewing the same pattern multiple times.

3. Posts I’m working on for Moda’s Cutting Table blog continue to enable me to talk to some talented designers…I’ve got an interview this afternoon set up to “meet” one of their newest (you can find the story on Monday on The Cutting Table).

4. I’ve been working at Home Ec on Thursdays. The sock monkeys at the top of the page were tucked into my bag yesterday in preparation for the class I’m teaching on Sunday at Home Ec—it’d been so long since I made a monkey that I stitched the one on the left as a refresher….and I must say its cheery outlook during these dreary, cold days was my reward. (Sock monkey history here.)

5. And I’ve been putting Pearl’s booties on nearly every time we head out into the Polar Vortex (we refer to this as Pearl’s booty call). She hates them, and stands on three legs, holding the offending bootie up until I force her to put a leg down so I can put on the next one. This continues until all four are on, her leash is hooked to her collar, and she trots out of the house and down the sidewalk.

6. I made mitered-corner napkins for Maggie for Christmas out of Minick and Simpson’s fantastic woven Midwinter Reds.

7. I finished binding the quilt I started last summer based on the workshop I took with Bill Kerr of Modern Quilt Studios. Linda Duncan quilted it, along with two others you’ll soon see, and I really love it.

8. I’ve been knitting, but both projects are gifts, so their unveiling will have to wait.

So that’s what’s up with me…how about you?

Two Fall Favorites: Quilt Shows and Leaf Peeping

I’ve never been to New Albin, Iowa, but got word of a quilt show in October you might want to add to your calendar. New Albin is on the Mississippi River, just south of the state line between Minnesota and Iowa. Driving along the river in the fall is always lovely. Our first year back in Iowa we took our girls and drove to Effigy Mounds to see the autumn color. At dinner that night, in the tiny town of Harper’s Ferry, we waited our turn in a restaurant and noticed two women giving us the eye. One of them leaned over to the other and said, sotto voce, “Leaf peepers.” The other nodded solemnly. “Leaf peepers” instantly become a McCray family favorite phrase. But I digress.

The photo I got about the New Albin quilt show features cow quilts, based on the book by Mel McFarland and Mary Lou Weideman book: Out of the Box with Easy Blocks. You may remember when Mel brought samples from the book to my parents’ house, or when everyone was stitching them at our Lake Tahoe retreat.  The variety is endless (and often hilarious). Looks like the quilters of New Albin have caught cow-fever, but there will be other quilts, as well: this is the show’s fifth year and in years past they’ve had as many as 200 quilts.

The show will be held int he New Albin Community Center on October 11 to 13 (Friday, 4 to 7pm; Saturday, 10 am. to 5 pm; and Sunday, 12 to 4 pm).

Back to Reality

Pearl the Squirrel inspecting the perfectly still lake
Just returned from vacation (sniff, sniff)—nearly two weeks at our family cabin. Though it was much cooler than usual and we weren’t able to swim or even be out on the lake much, it proved perfect for sewing.
I hauled along my trusty Featherweight and finished up my Fabric Fusion quilt that I started after a workshop with Bill Kerr of ModernQuilt Studio. It was a lot of little pieces. But I really wanted to give Bill’s (and Week’s) concept of mixing Jo Morton and Anna Maria Horner fabrics a try. The “fabric smackdown” we did in the workshop was where this started and this Brandon Mabley fabric was my initial inspiration.
These oranges and greens and reds and pinks aren’t “my” colors, either, and that provided an additional challenge. But I’m quite pleased with the end result. I used something like 38 or 39 fabrics in the quilt—including a tiny scrap of this madras plaid in the center, which I found in my mother’s sewing room, a leftover from a summer top she made me when I was in elementary school! I purchased about ten new fabrics, but the rest were from my stash and some of them were truly just scraps: the Amy Butler fabric was from my first Birdie Sling and the orange batik (top right) was from my very first quilt.
I love the crispness the white sashing provides. A highly satisfying project!
We did manage to kayak across the lake on two occasions for blueberries. That, also, was highly satisfying. Two pies and two batches of blueberry pancakes made mornings and evenings quite pleasant. 
The swimming dock, too chilly for a swim until the last day
Driftwood in a quiet bay
A wobbly panorama from my kayak on our last, finally warm and sunny, day

Belated Blogging

Guess it’s time to catch up! I have been busy with this and that, including a bit of traveling and a bit of sewing. It seems to have taken a toll on blogging. So here are some highlights.

I was super-fortunate to have both daughters home for my birthday. But did I get a photo of us all together? No. I feel quite sad about that, as it’s a rare event for us all to be in the same spot at the same time. But suffice it to say we had a wonderful long weekend that among other things, included lots of good food (like this lovely birthday cake from Deluxe, our neighborhood bakery.)

On July 4th we took our annual trek to the Hanson’s Grove Antique Sale in Solon. I just couldn’t resist this feed sack quilt. My birthday money must have been burning a hole in my pocket, because it cost just $10 more than the sum total I’d received.

I hemmed and hawed about whether to get it and wasn’t sure I should, but about an hour after I handed over the money and was still fretting a little, a woman told me she’d been standing behind me, ready to pounce on the quilt if I’d decided against it. That made me feel a bit better.

Here are some more photos of the day. We got there early and compared to last year, it was much cooler. A lovely way to start Independence Day.

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

Heading to Quilt Market

In a couple of hours I’ll be on my way to Quilt Market in Portland. I’m experiencing that last minute packing mania: Does this green go with that grey? Will TSA find the tube of toothpaste that won’t fit in my plastic bag? How many knitting projects will I realistically finish? Do I want my computer (and if so, where the heck is the cord)? What bag looks good to carry it in (since I neglected to make one)? Etc. etc. etc. Of course, all eyes will be on the fabric, not on me, so I should just lighten up!

I’ll be covering Market for Etsy, Quilt Country magazine, and also for True Up! (I’m super-excited to help Kim out with that and hope to meet some of the other bloggers who are filling in for her, as well.) And I’m traveling with the Iowa City talent team of Greta Songe (fabric design), Codi Josephson (Home Ec Workshop owner), and Jenny Gordy (Wiksten). So fun to get to focus on fabric and sewing for five whole days!

Heather Ross, Threadbias, Stitch magazine, and Voting

Sometimes the world of quilting and sewing seems very big, and other times it seems like a small town, where everyone is somehow connected to everyone else.

Those close connections happened for me with some recent stories I did for Stitch magazine. In the Spring edition of Stitch I wrote a short piece about Threadbias, a website started by a brother, sister, and sister-in-law team seeking to create an interactive site for quilters. I’ve dipped into the site occasionally and am always impressed by what I see—talented quilters and designers and lots of good photos and encouraging comments.

For the summer issue of Stitch I had the great good fortune of profiling Heather Ross. I’ve long loved her fabrics and she was a delightful person to talk with. Our interview was right around the time of Hurricane Sandy when she and her family evacuated their Manhattan apartment, but she somehow maintained a calm and cheerful demeanor. I loved learning how she’s combined her love of nature and the environment (she was an environmental educator in California) with her illustrations and love of stitching.

So suffice it to say I was delighted today to get an email from Threadbias noting that their quilt design contest using Heather Ross’s new Briar Patch fabrics was open for voting. Contestants created quilt patterns using Threadbias’s online Quilt Design Tool. If you haven’t seen them, it’s worth taking a look at the variety that emerged from a single line of fabric—some modern, some traditional, some dense and scrappy, some light and airy. I love seeing the way a single pattern changes depending on the fabrics used, and this is a riff on that theme…same fabrics, different patterns. Check it out!