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!

QuiltCon, Here I Come!

I’m back from the better part of a week in Minnesota with my aunt, and getting ready to head out again, this time for Texas. (And while I dearly love my aunt, at this time of the year I am definitely looking forward to going south, rather than north!)

UPPERCASE issue #24: Note in the right-hand column, 1×1-inch squares of actual feed sacks grace the covers

I’ll be covering QuiltCon for UPPERCASE magazine, which I’m quite pleased to have been asked to do. I’ve written for UPPERCASE over the years and for issue #24 I got to write about feed sacks, one of my favorite topics.

The real thrill of writing this piece was getting to talk with people who remember wearing feed sack clothing—I found their names through the comments on the Etsy feed sack post I wrote in 2011. The interviews were delightful, and I loved that neither Joyce, who grew up on an Iowa farm, or Nancy, who lived in Ohio, ever felt deprived because their clothes were feed sacks. On the contrary, they loved them. When UPPERCASE #24 arrived at her home, Nancy even sent me the photo below of a feed sack quilt that included scraps of a sack she’d picked out for a dress. It had simple mathematical equations on it, and she remembered thinking when she chose it that it could come in handy when she was in school.

At any rate, if you’ll be at QuiltCon, I hope you’ll join me for what they’re calling “a demonstration” on Friday at noon in Exhibit Hall B. In addition to giving away 10 copies of UPPERCASE #24, the one with actual feed sack squares affixed to the cover, I’ll be talking about feed sacks. (Also, Janine is offering a special QuiltCon discount for an UPPERCASE subscription. http://uppercasemagazine.com/quiltcon)

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)!

Tiny Bits

I’ve decided that while I’m finishing up my book (see previous post, numeral 1), the only way Pearl the Squirrel posts will exist is if they’re short and sweet. So here starts the beginning of a photo, a phrase, or a project per post. My expectations need to be low if I’m going to continue. (Yours probably already are, given the delinquency of this blog.)

So today, for your viewing pleasure, a baby blanket I knitted for my friend’s sweet baby girl. The only good thing about the very cool spring we’re having is that she’ll get to use it a little before it gets very warm, since though we had her baby shower in December, I didn’t manage to get this to her until last week. (It’s also got grey on the sides, which you can’t see in the photos. It’s knit with Classic Elite Yarns Toboggan.)

Sweet dreams!

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?

Me and O

I try not to bore you with a tale of every article and blog post I write, but I do have to share that while I was at the grocery store on Wednesday evening I came across the January issue of O magazine, and in it is a story written by….ME!

Yup, I’ve been pretty excited about this for some time, now, but had to keep it under my hat. I pitched the article and it was accepted in August. I’d thought for some time that the Days for Girls story I’d written for Stitch and Quilt Country needed to be told to a wider audience, but I just couldn’t decide where. My sister has a subscription to O and when I read the copy she’d left at our cabin this summer I realized it would be the perfect place to tell that story. Turns out it was. They did a lovely job with the layout, headlines, and caption.

As happy as I am to have a clip from O, I’m also thrilled that Days for Girls is getting the publicity that comes with coverage in a magazine whose circulation is 2.7 million (and that’s just the paid readership—think how many people pick it up at the dentist’s office or hair salon). I just love it when my writing does some good for someone or something good!

Days for Girls: Near and Far

For the fall issue of Stitch magazine, I wrote a story about Days for Girls, an organization that’s working to break the cycle of poverty for women and girls by distributing reusable feminine hygiene pads and shields sewn by thousands of volunteers. I learned about the story from an Instagram photo that my neighbor Molly posted after she spent a retreat weekend sewing for the org. Once I had the chance to talk with Celeste, the founder of Days for Girls, I was hooked. So many of us take for granted access to feminine hygiene products, and Celeste learned that without those products girls miss up to a week of school a month (and often drop out because they’re so far behind) and women miss work and can’t make money to feed their families.

You can learn more about Days for Girls by visiting their web site, but I wanted to mention two upcoming events. The first is local: we’re having a Days for Girls sew-in at Home Ec Workshop on Sunday, Oct. 6 from noon til 5.


If you’re not local and would like to join in, you can participate in the first-ever Days for Girls Global Sew-a-Thon, to be held on October 11, the International Day of the Girl. During the Sew-a-Thon, Days for Girls chapters throughout the world will be sewing for 24 hours straight. Chapters and individuals will sit down at their sewing machines for one massive, global effort to sew and assemble kits and win back days for girls and women everywhere.

Learn more at http://www.daysforgirls.org/#!global-sew-a-thon/chqi, visit their event page at http://www.crowdrise.com/DaysforGirls. Also, check out the Days for Girls Facebook page. (And if you’re interested in spreading the word on your blog, let me know and I’d be happy to share photos and copy.)


Stitching Up a Storm

My vacation sewing seemed to inspire me to keep at it and since I’ve returned I’ve finished another Sorbetto top (my favorite yet), worked on the back for my recently finished quilt top, and stitched up a Sew and Stow bag from the latest Quilts and More, designed by none other than my friend Mel McFarland.

Quilt tops await backs at the top of the stairs

I’ve also started working an afternoon a week at Home Ec Workshop. As always with a new job, it’s that combination of fun (Fabric! Yarn! Nice people!) and terror (Why is the cash register beeping? How much milk goes in a latte? How do I help someone pick up a dropped stitch?). I’ve gone in three times now and Codi and Anna have been infinitely patient.

I stitched the Sew and Stow bag as a shop sample—whipped it up after dinner one night, and it was a great excuse to combine three lovely fabrics. The instructions were super simple to follow and it seriously took less than two hours. I might make the tabs that keep it rolled up slightly longer—just an inch, really—when using fabric that’s a little heavier than quilting cotton—I used Anna Maria Horner’s lovely linen/cotton Ghost Wing for the body of the bag, Vanessa Christensen’s Simply Style for the top exterior (and an orange solid you can’t see to line the top). These would be great gifts, because they’re not just tschotkes, but really useful. Yay, Mel!

My Sorbetto top is made of…the fabric name is escaping me, but I’ve admired it for some time. Anyone remember? The bias tape was made from a Kaffe shot cotton fat quarter: all of it actually only required a 10″square of fabric. I used this great method from Collette: took me awhile to get it the first time, but once I did it works like a charm.

Finally, I had some very exciting news this week related to my “real” job…writing. Can’t share it for awhile, but you’ll definitely be hearing about it later this year. 

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.

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!