The week in quilting

Hi, blog friends! I’ve had a very busy, un-glamorous week. Lots of writing, collaborating, hustling, and preparation. All good things, most of them very fun and rewarding, but I’ve been itching for that one big, beautiful finish. The week still had its beautiful moments, though. Here are two of them.

My preparation for quilting the green Peek quilt happened in the glow of some beautiful afternoon light.

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Yesterday I visited my older son’s Kindergarten class to talk to them about quilting. I showed them Trill, Love Letters, the Quilt Camp sample, and the Christmas quilt. My little man was so proud to show his stuffed Sharkray’s quilt. After that, the kids glued fabric squares to paper to make their own little quilts.

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I hope you’re plugging on with your own projects, whether they’re quilty or not. Good things come to those who work hard.

[This week, the class schedule went live at Rock Paper Scissors! In addition to this Monday evening’s Peek block class, I’ll be teaching Building Blocks both during the day and at night in May. There will be Half Square Triangles, Quarter Circles, Flying Geese, and a new two-part finishing class called Quilting and Binding. If you’re in North Jersey, come join me. Check the Classes page for details. You can also see class updates on my Facebook page.]

Peek classes are here!

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Just a quick update this week, about some upcoming classes (class updates, including schedule changes, are available on Facebook and the Class page above). I’m so excited that I’ll be teaching the Peek block three times in the next two months. Not only is the block super versatile and fun to put together, but it’s also great practice for perfecting your 1/4″ seam allowance.

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The first chance is at Rock Paper Scissors on Monday, March 30 at 7PM. This evening class got snowed out twice during the winter, so hopefully we’ll be done with ice and snow by then! Call the store to sign up. There will also be a daytime Peek class on May 6 at 10:30 at RPS.

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I am also very excited that I’ll be teaching Peek to a regional group of quilters at the Mid-Atlantic Mod retreat in Lancaster, PA at the end of April. The retreat itself– hosted by Central Jersey and Philly MQGs– is sold out, but if you’re signed up for the retreat and want to take the class, you can sign up there! There are a few spots available.

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I don’t have many new pictures this week because I’ve been working on writing the Peek pattern! It’s all Peek, all the time around my workspace these days. The good news is that it will be available before summer and there will be three different versions– baby size, throw size, and modern layout (the one that hung at Quiltcon).

Have a great weekend!

Quiltcon resolutions and a Peek of green

It’s been three short, full weeks since I went to Quiltcon. Though I will continually process the experience and everything I learned in Austin, I feel like I have reached a place where I can figure out what I want to do about it.

So I am publicly posting my Quiltcon resolutions.

Research Quilt History - Quiltcon made me very aware of my relative new-ness in this world. I think that to truly appreciate and design and teach in it, I need to be more knowledgeable about the tradition and its history. Luckily, this resolution was already on its way when a lovely friend recommended I read American Quilts by Robert Shaw. Even more luckily, one of the librarians at our local branch is a quilter herself, they have the book there, and that shelf of the library is a wealth of information.

Learn Design Software - I have used EQ7 and enjoy its block-based tools, but in thinking more about quilts that defy grids and blocks, I’d like to learn how to play with design in Illustrator or Photoshop. I would also love to be able to make diagrams for my patterns and tutorials. I have to free up some time for this endeavor, so it’s not something I can jump right into, but I’m keeping it on my list as something to seize upon if I should find the opportunity. (Also, graphic design friends, which software do you prefer?) Heather Ross recommended it in her lecture as an investment in yourself and your personal tool box.

Keep My World Small – I am an introvert. I found for a while after the trip that I get a little overwhelmed thinking about quilters as a group and quilting as a movement. (“Where do I fit in?” “What is my aesthetic?” “What are my big goals?” “What does it all mean?”) It’s creatively paralyzing to me. And I find that I feel more creative when I maintain the illusion that my world is small in any way I can. What matters most to me is making what I love in a way that I love. Of course, I also find so much joy when I get up the courage to share my work. I love the community I find in my guild, my blog, and Instagram. So I just have to find the balance between those seemingly conflicting feelings. I think that’s easier said than done, but using social media in moderation is important, and maintaining relationships one-on-one helps. I don’t want to limit the number of people I communicate with, but if the communication can be meaningful and small, it doesn’t overwhelm.There is plenty of time for the big questions, and some of them answer themselves as long as I…

Just Keep Making - Even when I don’t feel creative, and especially when I have too many ideas, it’s important to just keep making. Listen to my gut, and even if a quilt doesn’t feel inspired, don’t get discouraged. Plug on. Build a body of work, learn from my mistakes. Work on technique. Keep building bridges.

Speaking of which, I had an amazingly productive week– I finished the top for the green Peek quilt! I posted these shots on Instagram and felt so much love from my awesome community.

I think this quilt, with its beautiful hues and simple elegance, helped me survive our brutal winter. And it’s very timely for a certain Irish holiday coming up next week. (P.S. Green is a really tough color to photograph! I’ve been trying out different effects and filters to get them to look more like it does in person, but as you can see I’m still experimenting a bit.)

I’m hoping to have the whole thing done before I teach the Peek block at Mid-Atlantic Mod at the end of April.

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.

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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.