Catching up – August

In August I started itching to get back to quilting. For all my hand-stitching, I hadn’t even turned on my sewing machine in weeks, and that was ok. I needed portable projects for keeping up with the boys. So I decided to hand quilt the Ballet Bag quilt (which I may or may not name “First Position”). 

The boys had camp for two weeks, so I also started designing. It felt so good to stretch those muscles, and though it took a little while to get going, I designed and pitched some really good concepts. I really hope that I have the opportunity to make those quilts.

On the first weekend of August, my mom and I got to spend a weekend in New York (she won a contest on IG for two nights at the Iroquois Hotel in Manhattan! winning photo here), and I’m so lucky that she invited me to come along. We spent it taking in art in many different forms.  At MoMA, I was sad that a whole floor, the one that had many of the minimalists, was closed for the installation of a new exhibit. They put a few on an open floor, but it was crowded and a tiny bit disappointing overall. It was good for me to examine my changing taste, especially how being exposed to discourse about quilting as art, and how it affected my reaction to certain work. I also realized that I was much more tuned in and interested by the stories about artists’ process. 

Highlights for me included the architecture floor, a collection of film posters belonging to Martin Scorsese, and a photography piece arranged the photos into groups that resembled the shape and size of a quilt. Interestingly, the photos were examining a global life-cycle of textile production from New York City to Africa. (I’m looking up her name. I tried to document all of the artists whose work I photographed but sadly didn’t with hers.)

Later in the day we went downtown to the neighborhood between TriBeCa and Chinatown where I lived for three years in college. In an alley is a tiny room that houses Mmuseumm, a collection of ephemera and cultural artifacts. This place made me so happy. It tickled the part of me that delights in things that are ironic, absurd, and provocative. The items in the collections were sometimes dubious in their authenticity (a collection of inmate inventions), but sometimes delightful (the “Cornflake Index,” with each flake in its own tiny case). The guide was so well written, the selection of items so diverse in their mundanity and value, I found myself more inspired than surrounded by priceless works in MoMA.

 In the evening, my mom, sister, and I went to see Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Taye Diggs as Hedwig. It was a magnificent way to round out our weekend of art, with music and theatre that challenges convention in the punk spirit. It was heart breaking and beautiful and helped me continue the internal conversations about my own artistic identity.

 Later in August, we spent a week in my home state, in the town and on the beach where my husband and I shared our first kiss and he proposed to me. There were toddlers in the house, so not much hand sewing to be had, but there was lots of music and coffee and daily Del’s lemonade (A RI must).  We came back home to New Jersey and the town pool and lots of library time. I’m working on reading my fourth novel of the summer, Loving Day by Mat Johnson. I’ve also read The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan, The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, and Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

I also came home to a newly tuned-up sewing machine, and finally plugged it in yesterday when my in-laws unexpectedly offered to take the boys to visit family for the day. I decided to use donated improv blocks from the Denyse Schmidt workshop I attended to make a quick top for NJMQG’s charity efforts. It’s so colorful and beautiful in its collaborative color. The fabric is all Free Spirit Solids and Denyse Schmidt prints.

  The kids are back to school on Wednesday, and I’m already laying ground for a fall full of quilting. I’ve enjoyed the pace of monthly blogging, and I’m happy that I have this record of my summer’s creative notes. This time of year is a great chance for new beginnings, so I’m going to seize the season and get to work.

 

Catching up – July

Ah, the leisurely pace of summer. I have been loving it. Now that my boys are 4 and 6, we have all been able to enjoy these long days full of outdoor adventures, family time, afternoons at the town pool, and daily frozen treats. It’s amazing how luxurious it can feel to set up a slip and slide in the backyard and read a book while the boys go from tentative dips with their toes to a full-on water fight.

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On the sewing front, I spent the first week of July working on the ballet bag quilt, which is inspired by the colors of shoes and leotards from my childhood of dance classes. I think it will be a small wall hanging– the blocks are 2 3/4″ finished. This is the first quilt that I’ve made in a very long time that has such a personal connection to me, and I’m hoping to explore other sides of my identity in future quilts.

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One afternoon, I got an amazing package from Cloud9 Fabrics— a FQ bundle of Rainwalk from Anna Graham of Noodlehead! (Her 241 tote pattern is a favorite.) I decided to have a fun improv-inspired afternoon of sewing and make some giant strip blocks like the ones we did in Denyse Schmidt’s class. I love them and hope to finish them as a baby quilt soon.

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In mid-July, we went with extended family to the Jersey Shore, where we rent a house with a big porch. I really enjoyed learning new embroidery stitches in a sampler from Nydia Kehnle, Experienced stitchers had told me that I would get hooked on embroidery, and they were totally right. I used Perle Cotton and LOTs of YouTube tutorials.

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One of the most luxurious parts of my summer — and I am fully aware of how lucky I am — is to soak in inspiration and art in these more relaxed days. I have plenty more on the horizon for fall (new quilt designs!), and the kids have a bit of camp still in August, so I’ll be more present here and on social media than I have been for the last month. But posting will still be light until the kids go back to school in September.

I hope there is lots of sunshine and color in your world.

Catching up – June

This month was bananas. There were so many events and great things, both quilt-related and not, that I just didn’t have the spare moments to write about them here. Before the calendar turns to a new, quieter page, I wanted to make sure that I had a record of them. Apologies for lumping it all together, but with a backlog like this, I would never catch up!

The first weekend in June, I was so excited  and honored to teach a walking foot quilting workshop at the Central Jersey MQG. We met in the gorgeous Hopewell Train Station on a warm, breezy day and shared some fun sewing time.

              Most of the students tried out the improv waves technique. Look at how beautiful their practice is.

The next weekend was the birthday at Rock Paper Scissors. We had to make a trip to visit family, so I made a mini quilt to celebrate the place. I wrote about it here, but I never showed the finished mini. Here it is!

A few days later, I was lucky enough to go to a class and event billed as “An Intimate Evening with Denyse Schmidt.” Denyse is such a talented artist and influential person in the quilting world, and it was inspiring to talk quilting with her. We ate dinner in a beautifully restored historic house and chatted before sitting down to sew. She led us in an improvisational exercise to make blocks from her pattern A Different Stripe using her Modern Solids collection from Free Spirit.

At the end of the exercise, we all laid our 18″ blocks on the floor to make one gorgeous spread of color.

Some of the students donated their blocks to the NJMQG so that we could use them in a donation quilt. I’m looking forward to assembling the top later this summer.

And speaking of NJMQG, the next night was my last as president of our guild. The last two years have been such a valuable experience, and I’m so grateful that I had the opportunity to help build the group into what it is. I met so many lovely and talented people. I’m certainly not going anywhere, but it was so bittersweet to conduct the elections at our June meeting.

And throughout the month my family participated in all of the milestones and events of the end of the school year. There were taekwondo tests, a fantastic Kindergarten play, a preschool field trip to the zoo, Father’s Day, and school picnics. I sewed most of the boys’ teacher gifts.

The wallets are from a pattern by Valori Wells and the bags are from Jeni Baker.

The summer’s schedule is a bit erratic, but I’m hoping to have some nice stretches of time to sew while kids are at camp. Thanks as always for visiting and keeping up with me.

Lauren’s quilt

There’s a thing that happens when you tell someone you’re a quilter. Nine times out of ten, the person will ask if you make t-shirt quilts. My standard answer is no for many reasons; because it’s an arduous process, because I have next to no experience sewing knits, because I’m afraid I’ll ruin a beloved heirloom. Because once you start taking commissions like those it’s a tempting and slippery slope into a time-consuming job.

But there are things that change all of those circumstances. In the fall, my extended family lost a beloved man very suddenly. Tom was my aunt’s love for decades, a second father to my cousins, a man whose warmth and joy brought so much humanity to family gatherings. My aunt and cousins have been dealing so well with this life-changing event, but naturally they miss him a lot.       In the winter, my cousin Lauren, who played volleyball for Rivier College not long ago, asked if I knew anyone who might be able to make her a quilt from Tom’s Rivier t-shirts. He and my aunt were her biggest supporters, and there were eight shirts in his XL size. I said, yes, you ask your cousin the quilter. I couldn’t imagine anyone else making this quilt, and I took the job very seriously.

Luckily, those eight shirts made a beautifully heavy 60″ square throw. I cut 12 1/2″ squares from the front and back of each shirt, using the leftover strips to piece 12 1/2″ blocks until I had 25. I used Pellon Shape Flex as interfacing so that the fabric would be stabilized with something that would behave like my usual quilting cotton. I used ball point needles and crossed my fingers. It came together surprisingly well. I was sure to take my time and sew mindfully, both for technical purposes and because I wanted it to look and feel good for Lauren.

I realized in making this quilt that this is why the memory quilting tradition is such an important one.It helped me grieve his loss in process. It gave many small things one big purpose. Most importantly, this quilt lets Lauren have another hug from Tom.

I am still not ready to take on t-shirt quilts for anything but very special situations, but I’m so so thankful I got to make this one.

Rock Paper Scissors Love

I am lucky in so many ways, but one of those ways, in my quilting life, is that I live so close to an awesome local fabric shop, Rock Paper Scissors.

In fact, I would not be a quilter without Rock Paper Scissors. It is where I took my first sewing lesson as an adult (with Beth, the owner), where I have spent countless hours picking fabric, and where I have hung out if I have a free hour or two for the last three and a half years. It’s also a place where I get to teach and be a part of the awesome family of women who work there.

This weekend RPS turns five years old. They are having a party and a sale, and I can’t make it. I couldn’t figure out how to tell Beth, and so I decided to do it in the best and only way I know how.

With a quilt.


It’s a mini, and it’s not quilted yet, but I’m going to finish it and bring it in next week. But I just had to share with the world in the hopes that maybe you are nearby and can wish RPS a happy birthday for me.

The paper pieced scissors are paper pieces from a pattern by Julia Eigenbrodt. The paper is inspired by Elizabeth Olwen’s Sonnet quilt (pattern coming soon from Cloud9!). The rock and heart were made with stitch and flip applique.