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?

A workshop with Crazy Mom Quilts’ Amanda Jean

Amanda Jean’s slabs and strings

Our guild lined up Amanda Jean Nyberg, co-author of Sunday Morning Quilts, for a workshop and I signed up immediately. I had the pleasure of interviewing her and Cheryl Arkison for an Etsy story and really enjoyed talking with them and their entire philosophy of saving scraps. I don’t know about you, but I can’t throw scraps away. Actually, I’ll bet that you can’t either. I go through phases, where I save even the little triangles I’ve cut from joining binding strips. I admit that eventually I’ve tossed them, but now that I’ve had a class with Amanda Jean, I wish I hadn’t!

My scraps

Scraps can be overwhelming, and the goal behind Sunday Morning Quilts is to help them be less so, to make them actually useful. Our class started with a discussion of sorting scraps (Amanda Jean and her friend Pam even brought a set of scrappy sorting boxes) and sorting our own took some time. But it did make them more useable. I was trimming some blocks I’d made from my scraps and Amanda Jean came by and there was a tiny little square—maybe 1.5 by 1.5 inches—that I’d cut off the end and she confessed that she saves even those. Her frugality is matched by her creativity, and she puts these scraps to really great uses.

Amanda Jean’s high-and-low volume quilt, Shady

One thing I enjoyed seeing was that even though her aesthetic is scrappy, she has a “look,” a clear, colorful palette that shows up time and again in her quilts. I felt quite inspired and started with a log-cabinish block of multicolored scraps.

My slab

I decided, however, to limit my palette and went for blue, green, and yellow with a bit of grey and was quite enjoying that. I’m not sure yet what I’ll do with the bit I made, but I do think I’ll keep at it, as I have a ton of scraps in these colors.

Amanda Jean laying out gum drops

If you ever get the chance to take a workshop with Amanda Jean, don’t hesitate. She’s funny, friendly, and spends a lot of time walking around and talking through issues with quilters. A day well spent!

Scrap baskets, rug knitted from selvedges and strings, and 2.5 inch square quilt
My friend Kristin’s slabs. We bought that dark blue fabric together six or seven years ago and both used scraps of it in our slabs.

Crafty Classes Update

Elfin Bonnet from the front

So, my week of lots of work-related deadlines has most fortunately been punctuated by opportunities to get my hands on fabric and yarn. First up was a knitting class with Master Knitter Lisa Wilcox Case. When I saw the hat in Home Ec (and felt it—knit from the springiest, softest merino Millamia), I had to make one.

Such a cute side detail!

Lisa calls it the Elfin Baby Bonnet and she recreated the pattern from one that an elderly neighbor gave her when she was in college. She described a woman who lived alone, across the hall, and knit hats for babies. Lisa still had the pattern the woman shared with her, typed up on an index card like a recipe. The construction of the hat is so cool—you knit it flat, then fold it in half and use a three-needle bind off to “stitch” the two sides together. Lisa hopes to have the pattern available on Ravelry soon. I knit a red one, and bought a different yarn yesterday to make a pink one. With spring coming, these may not be appropriate gifts for babies for awhile, but I’ll have a nice gift stash for next fall and winter.

Then yesterday I taught my first quilting class. I was a little nervous—Would people like it, would it be enough to fill the time? It turned out that I knew all four of my students, some long-time friends and some new friends, so that helped with the nerves.

The group discusses layout possibilities for HSTs

It was so much fun to catch up with them, find out about the connections between them, and watch their very different fabric choices become half-square triangles. I can’t wait to see what they ultimately do with their squares. And I hope they enjoyed the class.

Nora and her HST blocks-a pillow for her bed?

It’s always surprising to learn that you know something other people don’t…it’s easy to just assume what you know is common knowledge. But in hindsight I am grateful to my half-square triangle sweat shop for making me adept enough at half-square triangle-making to share it with others.

Maureen and her Heather Ross-polka dot HSTs

And everyone agreed that Laundry Basket Quilts Triangle Papers are a pretty nifty tool.

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!