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.

Sewing with the one who taught me

I spent a few days visiting my folks in southern California. One of the more fun things I did was to sew with my mom. She’s in her mid-80s and has Parkinson’s, but she’s determined to keep stitching.

She does seem to have a knack, however, for picking complicated projects. When I got there she had been working on a bag that had some really bad instructions and was feeling frustrated. I helped her finish it (and could certainly understand her frustration when I read the methods used in making the bag). Fortunately, she was happy with the end result (below).

Another afternoon we went to a quilt shop we’d visited previously in Orange, the Orange Quilt Bee. They have a great selection of fabrics and patterns and I wanted to find some patterns to try that had more clearcut instructions. We also got fabric to make pillowcases. Here’s the one she made while I was visiting, and when I called tonight she said she’s been making more.

We also stitched up an iPad cover, the Pocket Portfolio by Swirly Girls from some wonderful, traditional blues and were delighted with the pattern instructions and the result. Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the finished piece.

I liked the fabric she picked for her pillowcase so much that I’m planning to make Cindy Taylor Oate’s Sit and Stitch Pincushion from the same combination—when I left, my mom hadn’t started this yet. I’m hoping to make mine while we’re on vacation in a couple of weeks. It was fun to sew with the one who taught me. Wish we lived closer so we could do it more often.

Time for a Deep Breath!

I’m sure to readers of Pearl the Squirrel, it appears that all I’ve been doing is breathing deeply…quietly…far away from my computer. Actually, it’s been just the opposite. I’ve spent so much time bent over the keyboard that I’ve had to go to physical therapy for my neck! But a break is in sight, because Sunday I turned in the manuscript for Art Quilts of the Midwest, the book I’ve been working on for the University of Iowa Press.

While I make it sound like a slog, it’s actually been such an interesting process, and one that’s enabled me to do that thing I so love—interview creative people and find out what they do and why. Each of the 20 artists’ works will be accompanied by a brief bio that came out of our hour-long conversations. Always a challenge to describe people like these in so few words, but also a privilege.

The book will be out in spring, 2015, and I’ll certainly mention more as the time draws nigh.  I can’t wait to share with you the work of these artists, brought together by their Midwestern influences.

But for now, I’m going to go on a vacation (and I’m taking my knitting with me)!

Setting a record

Yes, I’ve set one all right…but it’s for length of time between blog posts. Not such a good thing! So herein is a quick rundown of what’s been up since mid-October.

Finished some backs and took quilts to Linda Duncan for long arming!

I was thrilled to finally get three quilts off my stair railing and to the quilters. One is back, another is ready for pick up. Here’s the first (used the six Farmer’s Wife blocks I made on the back).

Interviewing authors for my upcoming book!

Yup, I’m working on a book about art quilts and have had the great pleasure of talking with some of the  artists whose work was selected for inclusion. Can’t say too much about that just yet, but it’s an exciting project that you’ll hear more about in coming months.

Quilt Market!

Had my usual wonderfully-inspiring-and-thoroughly-overwhelming-time. All the usual suspects, plus Cotton and Steel’s debut, a stroll through Market with my Stitch editor Amber Eden, quick meet-ups with Lisa, Jennifer, and my other wonderful Meredith editors, dinner with my friends Mel and Mary Lou, a hug from Carolyn Friedlander, a quick chat with Lissa from Moda, and travel with Codi and Greta.

Brigitte Heitland for Moda
Anna Maria Horner’s booth (Free Spirit)
Carolyn Friedlander’s booth (Robert Kaufman)
Lakehouse’s Holly Holderman and PamKitty Morning, with @szyhomemaker, @frecklemama, and Greta Songe
Laurie Simpson of Moda’s Minick and Simpson demoing big stitching
Smilin’ Vanessa Christenson and her booth for Moda

Austin!

A quick visit with my wonderful daughter Maggie and her beau, EJ. We took walks, bought boots, saw adorable babies, and ate great food.

Maggie and EJ’s backyard grotto
Coolio chair at Austin’s Nannie Inez
Coolio daughter

Surgery!

Had a small skin cancer removed from my nose. 18 stitches. Kind of a shock at first, but a month later it doesn’t look half-bad. And they got all the skin cancer in one fell swoop, so hooray! (Reserving photos of this one)

California!

Went with my husband, who had a meeting. Saw old friends in Sonoma and Berkeley, a hike across SF that ended in dim sum, and Thanksgiving with my folks in southern Cal. A highlight was my first  face-to-face meeting with fellow Etsy contributor Karen Brown, with whom I’ve corresponded for a few years. Wish we lived closer…there’s a kinship there, for sure.

Karen in her alpaca jacket
Bay view from the Presidio
My awesome dad, his awesome pumpkin pie, and Paul
Santa Barbara pelican

And now home, where I made a few bibs for a baby shower.

One other thing I did was work on a story for a new (to me, but you’ll know it) publication that will be out in January. Looking forward to sharing that exciting news soon!

Happy Holidays…hope things are going well for you and yours.

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

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.

Spring Quilt Market update #1

Thanks for waiting! You may have seen similar photos elsewhere, but I’m sure I’ll have a few that are unique, so I hope you enjoy them.

My Quilt Market entourage has expanded since the days when Codi (center) and I went to include the super-talented Greta Songe (on left, who’s gone with us the past two Markets) and this time Jenny Gordy (right) of Wiksten. Since I interviewed Jenny for the current issue of Stitch with Style she’s started working at Home Ec and we’ve gotten to be friends and she was ready to check out Market in relation to her patterns. Greta had some great conversations regarding her fabric designs and Jenny was a veritable celebrity, as shop owners told her how much they loved her patterns and her Wiksten tank showed up in numerous designers’ booths.

Our arrival was delayed by a day due to tornadoes in Texas. Our night in the hotel-from-hell could be a post in itself, but I’ll spare you the drama. Suffice it to say, we were darned happy to make it out the next morning, but it did mean we missed most of Schoolhouse. Got this one photo of this Quilt Market’s “it girl,” Tula Pink. She has definitely hit her stride—the session was SRO.

The first booth that caught my eye was Deep South Fibers, a knitting pattern distributor that was looking to move into the sewing pattern world. The owner (I think Donna Higgins, but not 100% sure) had some examples of things knitted with Deep South Fibers patterns, including these adorable kids clothes of her own design. If you knit, check them out. Really elegant items.

Next up was a stop at Penguin and Fish (mentioned yesterday). I covered Alyssa for True-Up, so check out lots of photos here.

Just across the aisle was Carolyn Friedlander, talented designer of Architextures fabrics (for Robert Kaufman) and very cool quilts (and we spotted her teaching at Portland’s Modern Domestic when Market was done). I love the quilt behind her.

I had the pleasure of talking with people I’ve interviewed for past and present stories, as well as meeting with editors, including Amber Eden of Stitch. She took this photo of us all (who have all appeared, or will appear in the pages of Stitch), along with Stitch contributing editor (and a former American Patchwork and Quilting profile subject of mine) Kevin Kosbab. (You can see a shot of Amber here.)

Now, in no particular order, are more Market photos. I’ll be breaking this into two posts. In addition, over the next few days True Up will be including my coverage on Cloud 9, Rashida Coleman Hale, and Camelot, so I won’t duplicate them here. (Except for these fabulous ties, below, from Sarah Watson’s Dem Bones line for Cloud 9—love ’em.)

Riley Blake’s cleverly titled “Gingham Style”—love the varied sizes of checks
Deb Strain’s fabrics for Moda
Kaari Meng’s mood board
Not a great photo, but the only one I managed to snap of the vibrant Heather Ross. We’d “met” via phone when I interviewed her for Stitch, and she was kind, complimentary, and a great story-teller.
Jennifer Sampou’s stripes
Minnick and Simpson’s fabulous ikats for scarves (Moda)

Cluck Cluck Sew offered more great patterns
One of the loveliest booths belong to Leah Duncan for Art Gallery. She was also extremely lovely, herself. Check out the two photos below for more.

And then we ended the day—yes, ended rather than started—with a trip to Voodoo Doughnuts. Everyone raved, but I for one was not going to be taken in by doughnuts that featured bacon or cereal…seemed gimmicky. But I was so wrong. The plain ol’ chocolate glazed doughnut and blueberry cake doughnut I managed to eat were amazing. Plus, we got a great trip phrase out of our visit. When Greta was contemplating trying the maple bacon doughnut, the cheery server offered “Zero reasons not to!”which quickly became our Portland motto.

Baby Sewing Machines

After delaying a trip to Minnesota due to the weather, I got brave and drove north to visit my aunt. She’s about to turn 87 and I wanted to wish her Happy Birthday in person. She’s an amazing person—still so enthusiastic about life and willing to try new things. 

She saw that the local guild was sponsoring a quilt show and off we went. There were some lovely quilts, but one of my favorite things was a sewing machine display. 
The woman who owned the machines had bunches of books identifying and dating the machines and enjoyed talking with people who came up to share stories of their own antique machines. 

I was especially taken by the toy machines. She told me that while many of them were created for children, they all actually sewed and were sometimes used by women when they traveled. I loved the decorative elements on the machines—one even had mother-of-pearl inlay. I’ve bid at auctions on a few small machines, but never been willing to shell out the big bucks for one…after seeing this display, I may change my mind.

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