Sunday, March 27, 2011

Give that girl a treadle

A few weeks ago I drove to nearby Kalona to take copies of a Quilt County magazine article I'd written to a few of the people mentioned in the piece. Until I moved to Iowa, I thought the Amish lived only in Pennsylvania. But on a summertime drive to Kalona, about 20 miles south of Iowa City, it’s not unusual to pass a farmstead with a large garden, where Amish women walk the rows of beans and squash in bonnets, plain dresses, and bare feet. Hand-lettered signs posted by white houses and red barns advertise fresh eggs, rhubarb, and grass-fed pork. Black buggies pulled by horses wearing blinders dot the roadsides in all kinds of weather.

If you stray off the main highway you encounter Amish businesses, including a general store lit only by gas lamps that sells black shoes in all sizes, and the Stringtown Grocery, where horses and buggies are tied up outside while Amish and Mennonite families shop.Years ago, when I worked on the pediatrics ward of the hospital, we'd occasionally get Amish children and the little ones spoke no English, only a kind of German that one of my friends from Germany couldn't understand.

The good citizens of Kalona have learned to capitalize on Amish rubberneckers like me. Antique stores line the main streets and a fall festival each autumn and quilt festival each spring bring even more tourists. Over the years we've made friends with Ken and Brenda who own the Kalona Antiques Company and a furniture repair and refinishing shop. I took Ken some chairs for repair and while I was there I wandered among the dusty wooden furniture he had for sale—dressers, side tables, and an enormous Mission-style sideboard all held my attention. And then I saw the treadle sewing machine.

I actually did a lot of my early sewing on a treadle machine my mom and I bought for $10 at a yard sale when I was in junior high (and no, I'm not so old that I was a pre-teen in the days before electricity). My mom had a fancy Necchi machine that she worried about me messing up, so when we saw the treadle she told me it could be all mine and I loved the idea. I stitched up skirts and shifts, but eventually my sewing slowed and my mom took the machine out and antiqued the base a light blue and installed the Necchi in—no one remembers what happened to the machine.

There was a rush of nostalgia when I saw that dusty relic and the price wasn't bad, so I told Ken I'd take it. I'm not sure how much I'll use it and it is taking up valuable real estate, but the machine was so lovely I simply couldn't resist. It's much fancier than my first treadle...I can't get over the filigreed metal bits and the ornate transfers that are still intact on the machine.

 Probably one of the funniest moments came as I was leaving the shop. The machine didn't have the drive belt, that attaches the flywheel to the treadle, and I wondered where I'd get one. Brenda suggested I check out the Stitch and Sew Cottage next to the Kalona Antique Company. Not only did they have the name of someone who services treadle machines, they actually had drive belts in stock for $8.00. Only in a town where a portion of the population is forbidden to use electricity would there be a treadle sewing machine technician. Kalona may be only 20 miles down the road, but it's truly a world away.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Modern Quilting

Awhile back (actually, about a year ago right now) I wrote my first post for Etsy about modern quilting and the Modern Quilting Guild. I had the good fortune to chat via email with guild founders Alissa Haight Carlson and Latifah Saafir. Just tonight as I was cruising about online, one thing led to another and I came upon Alissa's blog and a post about a Modern Quilting Guild challenge with Robert Kafuman Kona Cotton Solids.

Check out Alissa's fantastic wonky rectangles, surrounded by halos of quilting, which is on her blog. If you've got a few minutes, take a peek at the many fabulous quilts from the LA Guild. There's also a Flickr group of photos of other Modern Quilting Guilds challenge quilts...haven't had time to check this out yet.

And it looks as though Jacquie Gering, the modern quilter who's inspired so many, was a guest at the LA guild...lucky them! I interviewed Jacquie a year ago January for a Stitch story...I'd been reading her blog for awhile and pitched the story of her Project Improv challenge, which inspired tons of quilters to take a stab at Modern Quilting, to Stitch magazine's editor, Tricia. It's fantastic to see how modern quilting, online challenges, and an entire community of modern quilters seems to grow and grow, and to bring into the quilting fold people who previously didn't think quilting was their thing. I so enjoyed talking with Jacquie and it's wonderful to see her influence spreading...I never cease to by the designs she comes up with, along with the thoughtful commentary she presents. She's got lots of great tutorials on her site, too. Check out Tallgrass Prairie Studio if you haven't before!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Take my breath away...

Just opened an email from a (non-quilting) camp friend, who sent me the link to a Daily Candy feature on quilter Carrie Strine. I then went to Strine's website, and then her blog. As the photo slowly loaded (my computer is rather lethargic these days) I did literally gasp...the double wedding ring quilt is the perfect combination of Modern Quilting and homage to our ancestors. Here's a quilter I'd like to more about! Thanks for the tip, Annie.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Oooo, baby love...

Just had to share these photos of Eli and Jack on the quilts that Sondra and I made for them last fall and bequeathed right before the winter holidays. I know we all believe our own babies are the most adorable, but you have to admit these two rank right up there on the Chuck-Them-Under-Their-Chins-Baby-Scale-of-Cuteness. And with expressions like these, their mom Anne looks to have a couple of engaging photo subjects who will oblige her with photo-worthiness for years to come.

Thanks for the photos, Anne!

(The quilts are the Mod Pod pattern from Carolina Patchworks. The blocks are Andover's Snorkel by Cosmo Cricket in two different colorways. Perfect for land-locked Iowa.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


I finished the top of the quilt I started a few weeks (months?) ago at Home Ec. Steff, one of the women in our quilting group used a little folded edge between her top and the border and I thought it looked so lovely I out-and-out copied it.

Of course, I didn't really think ahead about attaching it. I sewed the little strip (an inch-and-a-quarter wide, folded with right sides together) to the border and that worked out just fine for the first two sides. But then I tried the same method for the next two sides it didn't work at all. There was lots of ripping and re-sewing and cursing and gnashing of teeth—luckily the Academy Awards was on to distract me. I never did come up with an elegant solution, but it eventually worked. I ran into Steff the very next day and she told me that she'd sewn her edge to the quilt itself...Duh! A much smarter way to have done it.

Now, the trick will be to take this puppy from a top to the finished quilt stage. I'm finding I'm not a huge fan of machine quilting...I'm more piece-loving (ha!)...but I hate to pay to have a baby quilt finished, so I will likely do something simple.

Here are a few others from our group. Steff's is the one with the brown background. The other two belong to Anna and Amanda. I love how these are all so different!