The week in quilting

I’ve really come to enjoy my weekly ritual of sitting down on Friday afternoon to reflect on my week for this blog. This week was particularly quilting focused, but not in a project-heavy way.

After Quiltcon, I had a pretty active teaching schedule. Last Wednesday, my Beginning Quilters brought in their finished quilts. On Monday night, I taught Building Blocks: Flying Geese at Rock Paper Scissors. Check out their beautiful work! I like to post announcements about classes, samples, and student work on my Facebook page.

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On Wednesday, I had a private lesson with some students who had taken my free motion quilting class months ago. Free motion is something that takes a lot of practice and coordination, so I was happy to give them some special attention to figure out what shapes and speed works for them. We made up some personalized mantras that really smoothed out their curves.

After class, I got a sneak peek at the Kona trunk show that is going to be displayed at RPS. It was so special to help Beth unpack the quilts. This one is Elizabeth Hartman’s featuring blocks from her book Patchwork City. I paid extra attention to her free motion quilting since it was in my brain– her designs are so small with beautiful texture.

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Yesterday we had a snow day, and I let the kids watch a movie so that I could make some more progress on the green Peek quilt. We’ve had such a long, cold winter that it feels good to see green somewhere.

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I should have all of the blocks done by tonight. This is going to be the cover sample for the Peek pattern and classes. It’s been a little delayed with all the snow days we’ve had (how I wish like my teacher friends a snow day meant lots of sewing!). I’m itching for my first big finish of the year– it’s already March!

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Today, like every Friday, is a day with the four-year-old home from school, and I think that all of my quilting activity has rubbed off on him. He asked to sew a little. It was a lovely little moment with him snuggled on my lap, riding the fabric through the machine, selecting the next square, delighting in pressing the cut threads button.

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If you’re looking for some quilty reading, two of my friends have written some very lovely and real blog posts about the emotional side of quilting. Ginny writes about how quilting got her through motherhood, and Melissa writes about how she grew to love an imperfect quilt that brought out big feelings for her. I hope to one day write posts so honest and beautiful, and I’m so happy to call them friends.

I wish you a happy weekend, as always.

My Quiltcon Experience: An Overview

I don’t think I’ll accurately be able to capture my Quiltcon experience in writing that doesn’t ramble on for pages and pages, but I’ll do my best to give a broad overview. My biggest feeling coming away was that I could have done more! Every moment of my weekend was packed so full that I don’t think I saw the whole show. I know that I didn’t see everyone who I wanted to see. There were definitely regrets and disappointments, but there were also beautiful moments, revelations, inspiration and amazing people. I have to give so much thanks to the people at the MQG who pulled off a truly memorable and game-changing event.

I took an early morning flight on Friday and dropped my bags off at my hotel. I went right to the convention center and met up with Betsy, a friend and fellow NJMQG member. “Do you want to see your quilt?” she asked. And there it was. I didn’t fully absorb it– I let Betsy take my picture in front of it with a huge grin on my face, and I kept wandering through the quilts. It was impossible to walk through the show without seeing a familiar face from Instagram or just starting a conversation with a fellow quilt aficionado. There was a freeing absence of small talk– we would launch into talk about design, technique, or just stand in silence.

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The Show

It is such a surreal and specific experience to see quilts that have inspired you in person. To think about who has touched the fabric and what it meant to them. To see something so drop dead gorgeous that you know you will never achieve it, and then turn around to see the beauty in a detail that is perfectly imperfect. To think about the hours of work taken to execute such art. To be in the same room as the artists who did it. (Quite a few times I would hear someone compliment a quilt just to have the quilter pipe up from a few feet away, “thank you so much!”) My mind was filled with good contradictions and color. [I hope you seek out some of the photos on Instagram and Flickr where people are showing the Quiltcon quilts and giving credit to the makers.]

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Classes and Lectures

After a whirlwind of a Friday, which ended with drinks alongside some energetic and inspiring MQG leaders, I was ready to absorb some information. Saturday started early with yoga for quilters, leaving me feeling strong and centered. My first lecture was with Nancy Zieman of Nancy’s Notions and Sewing with Nancy. Now, shame on me for not familiarizing myself with Nancy’s work beforehand, but the name of the lecture was “Starting a Business, Stitch by Stitch.” I expected some logistical business advice. But the lecture was Nancy’s story of building her business in the 70’s and 80’s in a completely different era for the handmade industry. After waiting months to get to Austin and take a lecture, I have to admit that I was disappointed. Some of it was self-imposed, admittedly. I could walk away with some bigger philosophical points, but the details just weren’t relevant for my experience or goals.

IMG_2391After that, I had a class with the quilters of Gee’s Bend. Thankfully, my expectations of the class were just to sew and get a chance to ask questions of the women who have inspired so many modern quilters. There was not a lot of teaching provided, per se, but after seeing so many inspiring quilts, it was nice just to sit and sew. I improvised a bit with the solids and one shirt print that I brought, and Mary Ann Pettway showed me something that she had made while in Austin. I treasured the chance to tell China Pettway about Peggy, who served as Vice President of NJMQG and first told me about Gee’s Bend. Peggy passed away last year and would have loved to meet them.

My improv block

My improv block

The keynote with the Gee’s Bend quilters was thought provoking on a number of levels. The disparity in experience between the quilters on the stage and the quilters in the audience felt inspirational, grounding, and even uncomfortable and then back again. Some visual information would have been nice– I always enjoy a lecture with pictures and slides. It also took awhile to get to talk about quilts. But those women are entirely themselves and they use their platform to spread their (often religious) message. The quilts of the collective have inspired modern quilters for decades, and it is important to keep discussing their art and their experiences.

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The NJMQG charity quilt hung right in the hall by the lecture rooms!

My unexpectedly favorite lecture came from Heather Ross. It was called “How to Design Fabric.” I’ll admit that I don’t have a strong desire to design fabric, but I love hearing how successful creative people work, and Heather really showed her process. It was a mix of concrete tips (like don’t check email before 1pm, and get into a creative mindset by reading poetry) and her own specific experiences (“when the work makes me cry, I’m almost done”). She balances her own artistry with a mind for business, and it was refreshing and inspiring to hear her talk and joke off the cuff.

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I have to write about the people that I spent time with, whether walking the show, eating fried chicken (or bbq or donuts or tex mex), drinking margaritas or dancing to “Apache.” Many were friends through Instagram or this site, and each and every one of them pleasantly surprised me with their kindness and enthusiasm. Every day since I’ve been home, I think, “Oh! I need to find Stephanie”, or “Nicole would love that hexagon sign,” or “I hope Karin doesn’t get too much more snow.” I feel like my world grew and shrank at the same time. I tried to list all of the people who I enjoyed, and I just felt so grateful. IMG_2446

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Written by Ginny ( @minnowpeck ) during our awesome day together. All the hearts.

There were so many people that I met, but even more that I feel I missed. To the many online friends that I saw across the room but didn’t talk to, or ones that I didn’t get to meet, I hope we continue to email and meet face to face next time. This was definitely a learning experience, and I hope that if I go to another Quiltcon I’ll know how to plan my time and activities better.

I didn’t walk through the entire vendor area, but luckily I did get to visit the Monster Hexi quilt that I made for Cloud 9 Fabrics.

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Even though it was crazy and hectic and overwhelming, I am so thankful for the opportunity to have been there. I spent the flight home writing and processing and sketching new quilts. I’m sure I’ll be thinking about and remembering my experience in the days and weeks to come.

I have a few isolated stories and vignettes that I’ll try to post in the week ahead. I also talked with a few Quiltcon friends about partnering for content and new ventures, so stay tuned.

iPad mini case for Valentine’s Day

Dudes. You know how I don’t recommend things lightly? And I will always tell you if someone asked me to, or if I’d be getting anything in return? Well, I bought Shea Henderson’s School of Sewing completely on my own, and I simply can’t NOT recommend it. It’s a valuable resource for any sewist or sewing teacher (there is an actual class following along and commenting throughout), and it is drop dead gorgeous to boot. I bought it because I’ve been making quilts and teaching other people how to make them, and yet I’ve never sewn a zipper or a button hole before. I thought I could have the resources for the basics and try a few of the projects to learn them.

Enter Valentine’s Day. It’s five days after my husband’s birthday, so my gift idea well is usually completely dry. He’s extra hard to buy for to boot. So when I saw that School of Sewing had a customizable tablet case pattern, I had hope.

IMG_2259And I pulled it off! I’m so proud. The instructions were clear, and there were photos for almost every step along the way. I used fusible fleece, and made my very first button hole.

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The case features a print from Vanessa Christenson’s Simply Color line, with accents from Botanics by Carolyn Friedlander in gray. The lining is yellow crosshatch from Botanics as well.

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IMG_2262It’s such a good idea for a personal and useful gift that is much quicker than a quilt.

What is your go-to handmade gift?

Quiltcon prep

This week, I managed to plug along and make six more Peek blocks. Progress. I also did some Quiltcon prep. Yes, this time next week I will be walking the show at Quiltcon in Austin. I am nervous and excited, to use some totally over-used words for some pretty big feelings.

Over the weekend, the MQG started #HelloQuiltcon on Instagram, so I posted  a selfie to help people recognize me:IMG_2189

Though I’ll probably look more like this (I’m learning to love lipstick but it’s not a signature look yet):

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I missed the Instagram lanyard swap, so I made one for me (Carolyn Friedlander grids, chic and goes with almost everything I wear):

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And one for Ashley (bright, floral Anna Maria Horner in cerise, goes perfectly with her beautiful personality):

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I also got some cards to give to people I meet. They have Peek on the back, and I’m so tickled that the printing picked up the texture of the quilting in the negative space:

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Next up is the practical stuff, like packing and getting everything in order. If you’re planning to go, keep an eye out for me and say hi!

Oh! And one more thing. My lovely friend Stephanie (who I’ll be meeting in person for the first time next week) at Late Night Quilter started a new linky party on Tuesdays for tips and tutorials, so check it out and vote for your favorite. I’m the first link there with my Blip baby quilt tutorial, but I’ll be sure to have new content for that the next time I link up.

Have a great weekend!

Still Peeking

After I posted last week’s blog post, I had a breakthrough in my latest blue/green Peek quilt. The perfect Anna Maria Horner floral that could serve as a focal point AND bring in all of the shades of green that I wanted to use. It’s still my favorite block so far. I think that’s a good sign for a focal block. It plays so well with the Carolyn Friedlander and Cotton + Steel prints in the other blocks.

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This week I didn’t do a lot of sewing– we had a brutal snow day, I taught week three of Beginning Quilting at Rock Paper Scissors, caught up on some appointments rescheduled because of weather, and finished a huge beautiful novel I’d been reading since before Christmas.

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But I managed to cut and assemble five Peek blocks that I chain pieced when I had a moment here and there during the week.

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I finished them at just the time the oldest finished school for the week. Woohoo!

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I now have 14 of 25 blocks needed for this quilt. That’s more than halfway done. I need to plug through 11 more.

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I’m trying to look at the bright side. The awesome Erin from House on Hill Road just called it “eating an elephant one bite at a time” on Instagram. How do you keep going when you feel like you’ve lost momentum?