Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Buns in the oven

Time to unveil a few of my "top secret" sewing projects. First is a baby quilt that my co-worker Sondra and I made for another colleague, Madelaine. A couple of years ago Sondra and I made a wedding quilt together for another work friend. That time we worked separately: she cut, I pieced, she quilted, I bound. This time around we thought it would be fun to work together. Sondra engaged in espionage and ascertained that Madelaine, who doesn't know the sex of the baby, was opting for gender-neutral green and brown in her nursery. (I admit to being terribly old fashioned, but I think not knowing is the way to go—the moment when the doctor or midwife announces whether you have a boy or girl is one of the truly magical surprises in life—and it leaves room for you to ask brilliant questions like the one I asked of the doctor—"Are you sure?"—when the baby is not the sex you imagined. The doctor said he was sure.)
Sondra not only found out the nursery colors, but knew that Madelaine really likes Amy Butler fabrics.We opted for a combination of Amy Butler and Joel Dewberry fabrics and that collaboration was an interesting one.
As we selected our fabrics we each had one we loved that the other person was uncomfortable with. So we each had to compromise and stretch our visual horizons a bit. She chose the dark green, which I see now was entirely necessary for contrast. I chose an Amy Butler fabric (middle row, outer two blocks) that incorporates the green and taupe and a bit of orangey-caramel color that I think helps tie the fabrics together. We both felt pretty happy in the end with the interplay of color and pattern. The quilt pattern is Cubic Rhythm from the Spring 2009 Quilts and More. We liked its graphic quality and thought it would go together quickly.
While we admit to doing a bit of seam ripping, by and large it was a pretty quick quilt. I cut it out in the a.m. and we finished putting it together by late afternoon. Pearl helped, of course. I did the machine quilting the following weekend and Sondra bound it and used her graphic design skills to create a perfect label.

We presented it to Madelaine last week, just in time for her scheduled c-section next Wednesday (that darned baby is breach and just won't turn). About a week after we'd had our sewing session, Sondra told me she's also got a bun in the oven and is due in October! So sneaky, that girl. While we were sewing we'd talked all about pregnancy and she never let on. She and Madelaine are going to be fabulous mothers and I'm so excited there will be babies in the office on occasion!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Belated everything...

It's been quite awhile since I posted, but in part it's because a few of the things I've been stitching have been gifts and I've been afraid to show them until they were given. But by Sunday both my recent projects will have reached their recipients and I'll show you what I've been up to.

Until then, I leave you with these belated birthday photos from Home Ec Workshop's first birthday party. Hard to believe it's been a year since Cody and Alissa first opened the place—it seems like a second home for so many knitters and sewers. People come in with a project, plop down, and chat and stitch. At any rate, here are some photos from their birthday party held at the end of March. First is owner Alissa on the right, giving my good friend Emily her ticket for the door prizes.

Next is owner Cody and a friend. Note the lamb-shaped birthday cake in the foreground—and they had a chocolate fondue fountain!!!! With fruit and marshmallows to dip into it...incredible.

Finally, here's a shot of two of my "classmates" from the doll class I took. Blue is on the left with her baby boy, Finn. She's a poet and it turned out she knows my younger daughter. On the right is Wendy and her sweet baby girl, Estelle. Wendy worked with my older daughter at Prairie Lights many years ago and that's how I got to know her. She was always so wonderful to Maggie and it made me so happy when she had a baby girl of her own, I just had to make her a quilt. There's something I just love about generations connecting like this. I moved so much as a child that I never lived anywhere that I'd run into people who knew me when I was young and I love that people know my girls and that I then get to know their children, in turn. I know, sort of sappy, but I am that kind of mom sometimes. And who could resist feeling sappy when you look at those two sweet babies!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Stimulating the economy

I've been doing my part lately to keep quilt shops afloat. But before reading about my patriotic efforts, I suggest you run to Madison, WI, to the Chazen Museum of Art to see Writing with Thread: Traditional Textiles of Southwest Chinese Minorities. This visual feast of an exhibition includes more than 500 textiles, mostly clothing, that are well worth drooling over if you're in the Madison area before April 18. (After that it will be moving to Santa Fe.) A description of the exhibition noted that many of these people had no written language and that these textiles were they way they told a person's story—I loved that idea! I also loved the way one garment combined numerous patches and bands incorporating various textile treatments: embroidery, weaving, piecing, resist dying, metalwork, and more.

Now on to my personal stimulus efforts:

Paul had to go to Madison last week for work, so I tagged along. He had to work all day Wednesday, so I took the opportunity to visit quilt shops. The first was Stitcher's Crossing, a shop I'd written about in 2006 for the 2007 Best of Quilt Sampler "bookazine." It was my first big assignment for Meredith and a terrific learning experience for me. I got to interview 20 shop owners who'd been featured in the past in Quilt Sampler in order to update their shop profiles.

It's always a treat when I get to meet in person the people I've interviewed by phone and Quilter's Crossing owner Sharon Luehring was no exception. She's friendly and warm and her sunny and cheerful shop is fabulous—a terrific selection of cottons and wools, plus yarn for knitting and other fiber crafts. Her staff was very helpful and after I'd admired a purse, a staffer led me to the pattern, a creation of a local designer. I just loved both the very small and largest bags—I nearly bought fabric to make them, but decided instead I'd wait and see what I had in my stash. They also suggested a couple more shops I could visit in the Madison area, so my day was set! I decided that this trip would be my version of buying locally grown food—I'd buy locally produced patterns.

Next on the tour was the Mill House Quilts in Waunakee. Again, a very friendly staff (they took one pattern right off a display for me because it was the last one in the shop). Tons of sample quilts hung from the wooden rafters of the old building and fabric, patterns, and kits were plentiful. Again, I opted for patterns designed by local designers. I've got a bunch of Heather Bailey Freshcut fabric that will work perfectly for the Ingrid Barlow pattern and while the other is a bit more traditional looking than the patterns I'm drawn to, they also had it made up in 30s repro fabrics and I realized it could look just as great in contemporary brights.

Finally, I went to JJ Stitches in Sun Prairie. If you're a fan of traditional quilting and antique and reproduction quilts, this is the place for you. The brick walls of the shop perfectly set off the quilt samples that line the walls. It turned out I'd interviewed Julie Hendricksen, the shop owner, for American Patchwork and Quilting about a year ago. The back room of JJ Stitches was awash with bright 30s fabrics and three mannequins sported aprons. I bought this last pattern, thinking that the without the lace and with its cinched waist it had a bit of sass that would look good on a young thing...I happen to know a few.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cutting out sunshine

When the image of this Hawaiian quilt popped up in my in-box in late January, it was comparable to a much-needed dollop of sunshine. Between the radiant yellow and the floral imagery, it felt like a bit of warmth in the midst of a stretch of frozen days. You can read about the quilt in the June 2009 issue of American Patchwork and Quilting. In order to write about it I once again I interviewed Carolyn Ducey at the International Quilt Study Center (there's a great story about the center in the same issue of APQ—it's on newsstands now) and had another opportunity to learn about quilts of another culture.

I've vacationed twice in Hawaii, and although I wasn't a quilter at the time, I did go to a quilt shop and purchase fabric (the surfer prints that reminded me of my Southern California youth). It was then that I was first captivated by the Hawaiian quilts.

According to Carolyn, Hawaiians didn't have access to cotton fabric before the mid-1800s, when it arrived with the missionaries. The islanders used the inner bark of trees to make a cloth called kappa moe, on which they painted images that were often inspired by nature. (Hawaiians combined that tradition with the making of quilts, by using some of the same imagery.) Carolyn pointed out that the appliqued image on these quilts is cut from a single piece of fabric.

One theory of Hawaiian quilt origins is that German missionaries brought the tradition of scherenschnitte—intricate paper cutting—with them, and may have brought some scherenschnitte-inspired quilts, as well. The Hawaiians adapted the technique to their own purposes, creating quilts that reflected both the natural world and human life in Hawaii. There's a great link, the Honolulu's Bishop Museum's Ethonology web site, that has images of some of the Hawaiian quilts in their collection. Check it out.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

An unexpected windfall...

Last week a package arrived in the mail—a manila envelope from someone whose name I didn't recognize. Inside was this beautiful, handwoven towel and a letter from the woman who bought my Glimakra loom this past summer: the towel was from the first warp she'd put on the loom. She wrote a detailed note about how much she was enjoying it, about the rep rug she was weaving, and how it was so pleasant to weave because of the tremendous shed on the loom.

Selling my loom was a tough decision. I'd bought it more than 20 years ago and it was quite a stretch for our family to make that purchase. But it served me well for many, many years: I sold my work to friends and family members, at fairs, in a shop, and through an interior design firm. When I had little children I tried to weave at least a couple of inches every day so that I could feel I'd accomplished something that didn't need to be repeated (like cooking and laundry) just as soon as I'd completed it.

But when I went back to grad school my weaving slowed to a trickle and when we moved ten years ago I didn't set up my loom right away and the basement where it was going to be located was taken over by teenagers (mine). It sat in pieces in a storeroom until, in our big basement clean-out last summer, I decided that I was now a quilter and it was time to let the loom go to someone who'd use and appreciate it. Getting that package from Mary Beth really reaffirmed my decision to move on to a different phase of life.