The Times We Live In

The Inspiration

When I had the privilege of hearing Bill Kerr from Modern Quilt Studio speak last year, someone asked the question, “What makes a quilt modern?”

Bill’s answer has stayed with me ever since.  He replied, “It reflects the time we live in.”

I thought a lot about that lately, and it came to mind again as I worked on my latest quilt.

An extended family member is suffering from a heroin addiction. He’s 23 years old. (Close family).

Unless you live under a rock, or unless you have your head buried in the sand, you know that this country is in a crisis.

  • Addiction is the number one killer of those under 50 years old in America.
  • This is the worst overdose epidemic in our country’s history–mostly heroin and fentanyl.
  • In 2015, more people died from drug overdoses than from gun homicides and car accidents COMBINED. And that number has exponentially risen since then. (nytimes).

I don’t want to go into the heartbreak that opioid addiction brings into a family, or the destruction, or the loss of trust and money and emotional fortitude.  No, those are just side shows to the vice-like grip of tragedy and despair that accompany a person with an addiction.

He told his mom that the world is grey, and only appears in color when he is on the drug.  All of this is likely a symptom of underlying depression, but reaching it is difficult through the fog of substance abuse disorder.

The Quilt

Awhile ago, I began working on an improv quilt.  It was basically chaos, and felt like 2017 to me. Layer on top of that the never-ending chorus of my family member’s opioid treatments, shaky and hesitant recoveries, disappearances, and temporary relapses, and “chaos” becomes the perfect description.

But hope lives.

And I found myself creating a quilt for him, made of this crazy, chaotic improvisational fabric. It was interspersed with grey, reflecting the many times he has been through rehab.

But the main message of this quilt is one of hope…for my family member and for all those suffering from this disorder.  This cheapest of all street drugs will not get the last word.  The rest of us surround him with belief that this can be overcome, knowing full well the difficulty.

The Details

I don’t know how others design quilts, but I find that I don’t “think” in software. I have to grab a notepad and sketch it out. I add measurements as I go along.

Next, I took the improv fabric and positioned it under some of the grey to see if it was going to work.  I love that the sun was pouring in as I worked.

I’m pleased with the way it’s turning out.

I’ll be using the serger to piece the back in a beautiful blue sky ombre with splashes of color.

It’s the goal…a blue sky goal and a life of color, on the other side of the grey.

In the big picture, the grey and the colors of anyone’s world mix and mingle back and forth.  The world is not always in glorious color for any of us.  Sometimes it is the grey that provides the relief in order for us to carry on.

If you or someone you love needs help with substance abuse disorder, here are a few resources I follow on twitter to provide support and ideas.

Brasstacksrecovery.com

Shatterproof.org

Facingaddiction.org

Recoveryanswers.org

In the meantime…

…hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. (romans 8:24-25)

Women, Sewing and Art

We had some family in from out of town this week, and a day-long trip to the Art Institute of Chicago was on the agenda.

Let me start by saying that I checked with the information desk and they had no problem with me taking a few pics and posting them to a blog.  So that’s what I did.

As you know, the Art Institute is an overwhelming and inspiring experience. After a bit of roaming, I came across a painting of a woman sewing. On a whim, I took a picture.

(Just as an aside, I hate when I see people running up to a painting and taking a picture.  That is not how it is meant to be enjoyed. Look at it. Study the brush strokes. Discover the color palette. Contemplate it. Enjoy it. But whatever you do, don’t run up and take a picture and then run to the next.  That’s silly.  Lecture over.)

That said, I decided to record what I could of women sewing.  A few samples:

Renoir was the first I happened to see. It’s lovely…with such movement.  I did, however, study her hands.  What was she sewing that was so bunched up?  That’s not really how one would hold something for embroidery or detailed stitching.  Though her right hand is perfectly positioned to pull a needle through the fabric, her left is a bit awkward.  The white lace near her left arm is, I suspect, entirely an afterthought.  Go ahead, hold your finger over that piece of white lace. The whole painting recedes into mid-tones. While it is still gorgeous, it lacks enough contrast to draw your eye somewhere.  With that touch of white, your eyes go directly to her work and her hands, and it even lights up her face.

This one is done by Camille Pissarro around 1895.  Titled “Woman Mending.”  I studied her hands once again.  She might very well be sewing.  Or she might actually be knitting in some way.  Her project is rather amorphous.  Yet, I recognize her expression.  I have the same one when I’m trying to figure out what I did wrong.  After these two paintings, I started to wonder if male painters truly understood in any way how women work. They recognize that women are doing SOMETHING with fabric or yarn. The detail is so precise in every other aspect…down to the carvings on the leg of the table.  But what this woman is actually doing?  Based on this painting, it’s a mystery.

Ahh. Diego Rivera, 1936.  The Weaver.  As we move into the 1900’s, we see that women’s work becomes a bit more of a fascination.  It’s not just pretty things in a young woman’s hand, but a skill, a craft.  He even pays homage to her by including the tools of her trade. He admired this woman, I’m sure of it.

This last one I saw was from the 1800’s, St. Rose of Lima. She was a patron saint of the Dominicans, and the story says that she embroidered to raise money for her family and for the poor. In this painting, she is creating the symbol for Christ. (This pic is taken from a pamphlet I brought home from the museum.) I love that her work is clearly shown, and that her sewing was her employment.

I hope you enjoyed this little jaunt through the Art Institute. If, like me, you haven’t been there in over 20 years, I encourage you to visit again with new eyes.  While you’ll see plenty of women as subjects — in portraits, as madonnas and mothers, lovers and muses — these are the women I found that had a project. A purpose.

A reason to create.

 

October Projects, Bernina Excitement

Is it really mid-October?

Will this election ever be over?

Like the whole country, I feel like I have had enough.  And when I’ve had enough of anything, I turn to sewing.  Usually, I find something completely new to occupy my mind…an outlet to create something I haven’t before.  But the past few weeks have been spent mainly finishing projects, working, taking walks, and finding mindless sewing work from time to time to de-stress.

Here is a little gallery of images showing some of the things I’ve been working on.

In late September, I attended training at the Creative Center at Bernina. They are introducing some new products and I am excited about them.

Bernina 700 Embroidery Machine

b700-straight

Without a doubt, one of the coolest machines Bernina has introduced in a while. It has all the same features as the 790, with these new features:

  • Pinpoint Placement – you’ll never have to worry about hooping something crooked again. (This is cool…and easy.)
  • Thread Away – Never stitch over those loose threads.
  • Programmable jump stitch cutting – it will cut jump stitches as small as 1 mm…no more cutting those tiny jump stitches!
  • Multiple Spool Holder – Put all the threads for a design in one place.
  • 320 designs included
  • 18 alphabets (I love them.)
  • New Monogram Alphabet with ornaments (gorgeous!)

Honestly, I loved this machine.  The engineers definitely had heart to heart conversations with actual people who embroider. Everything we could have asked for is right here. LOVE!

Bernina Embroidery Software 8

The improvements to the software are worth the upgrade.  Even if you don’t use some of the main new features, just the improvements to existing features is worthwhile. For instance, when choosing your hoops, now you tell the software what machine you have and it will only display hoops for that machine.  Remember when you had to scroll that long list just to find your hoop? Not any more.  Also, for newbies, you can turn on labels for all the icons..how helpful is that in learning the software?? (Very, for those who are not familiar.)

Features:

  • New! Color Photostitch – This is a vast improvement on Photosnap which was pretty particular in the types of images that would work.
  • 3D Globe Effect – Great graphic effect.
  • Alternating Pattern Fills
  • One-click Auto Digitizing – Simplified and made easier to use.
  • Couching
  • Quilt Layouts
  • Automatic Quilt Backgrounds
  • 3D fonts

I spend a lot of time in software, so for those of you who use the software a great deal, it’s completely worth the cost to upgrade.  For those of you who use it only occasionally, only you can decide if you need these new features.  It is still a very familiar layout, with colors moved to the bottom.

If you are someone who has held out from upgrading for a few versions, especially if you have been holding out with version 5 or 6, now is the time to move up.  Version 7 was a big change, and was a very user friendly upgrade. It made the software much easier to use.  Software 8 builds on that.

That’s all I have for the moment, with a few new ideas brewing.  More to come, as always!

The Back Story of One Quilt in Madison This Weekend

When you work in a quilt shop, you talk to people.  You get to know them, you share stories, you find out their struggles and generally share tips, life hacks, experiences, and sometimes we even talk about quilting and fabric.

Yesterday, a young man walked into the shop.  I’d seen him many times before, he does gorgeous and unusual piecing…technical stuff. He likes to bring them in to show us, and we love to see his work.  Honestly, we love to see everyone’s work, it’s so inspiring.  But his is always a bit different.  One quilt he brought in was completely Harry Potter themed, with books and potions and characters all arranged on a series of shelves, with tiny pieced accents and Harry Potter memorabilia.  Cool stuff.

I turned to greet him, “Hey, haven’t seen you in awhile!”

He shuffled his feet a bit, as uncomfortable early twenty-something young men do, and said, “Well my mom got sick and had a long illness and died.”

At that, all of us working stopped in our tracks and went over to him. We offered our condolences and then he said, “After she was diagnosed, for the next 9 months we worked on a quilt together, and it’s showing in Madison. She died the day before it came back from the quilter.”

At this point I needed a Kleenex.

I asked if he had a picture of the quilt.  It was stunning…gorgeous…meticulous.  It reminded me of a Judy Niemeyer. He said he did all the cutting, pinning and pressing, his mom did the machine sewing. He told us that they matched every single thread, and if something wasn’t absolutely perfect down to the thread, they corrected it.  He said the medallion in the middle had 24 pieces of fabric coming together at the center and he managed to get it down to about 1/8 of an inch thick. He said Best Press is his friend. When they went to square it up it was 100 inches by 100 inches precisely.  They worked on it in the nine months that she was still feeling OK.

I cannot include a picture because it’s in competition in Madison at Quilt Expo this coming weekend Sep 8-10.

As part of the show, he’ll be having his picture taken with the quilt.  He said he’ll be bringing a picture of his mom to hold up so she’s in the shot.

If you will be at Madison Quilt Expo this weekend, you may want to send a little love and encouragement his way.

And, I don’t know, his quilt may or may not take Best of Show or any award at all.

But it sure is a winner.

 

 

 

Are You a Happy Glamper?

glamping 2You can’t fool me with colorful new fabrics and joyful projects and slick looking retro-styled trailers and chef-inspired meals on Pinterest, cooked over wood-burning fires with tents and campers lit softly with warm beds and bathrooms and lighting.

glamping 4

I have been camping.  And there is nothing “glam” about it.

I pitched tents that required directions and patience to assemble…long before they snapped together in minutes.  I canoed down a muddy stream in a strange state in the pouring rain with a boat partner who had no idea how to steer. The couple behind us had a large black snake slide into their canoe. That’s the definition of horror.

I’ve slept on air mattresses that flatten completely by morning, on earth that slopes and slowly rolls me downhill all night till I’m shoved up against the door.

I’ve cooked real meals over an open fire and inhaled more than my share of campsites (especially in a state preserve where everyone is close to the next campsite and all are burning God-knows-what all night long.)

I’ve bathed in lakes and cold community shower stalls, discovered 5 ticks on one foot, and been terrified of the fierce growling in the middle of the night no more than 6 inches from my head on the outside of the tent.

Yes, I’ve been camping. Or do you say glamping.

Love it or not, the trend is hot hot hot.

And sewists are all over it!  Take a peak at this link to hand embroidery that everyone is into these days.

hand embroidery

glamping 3Since I’ve been obsessed with in-the-hoop bags, here’s another.

I purchased this design from an Etsy shop called Disorderly Threads.  You can purchase the design here.

It’s a lot of steps for a small design but the instructions are pretty clear. I love how it turned out and made a couple of them.

glamping 1The idea of glamping is 100% fun, and retro and cute.

And if you’re looking for me, I’ll just be enjoying the whole trend vicariously from under the covers in my cozy, warm, dry bed.

Lilacs and Chaos

When the chaos in my mind and in my sewing room reaches the breaking point, it helps for me to get out and smell the lilacs.

lilacs1

This is my favorite time of the year.  The promise of warm weather, the anticipation of wonderful, summery things.  Those last few days before the kids are out of school, when expectation runs way ahead of itself.  Lemonade and carnivals and rides on golf carts.

Green leafy things and colorful blooming things, and thunderstorms and sprinklers and fresh sweet corn and tomatoes.  Farmers markets, and sandals, swimming pools and vacation adventures.  Road trips and plane trips and hikes in the woods.  Barefoot feet and long conversations on patios, decks and kitchen tables with air conditioners humming.

Trashy novels with no deep meaning, except maybe a lovely or surprisingly sweet ending.  Grilled chicken and kabobs and sun on my painted toes.  Lawn mowers and bicycles and screen doors.  Red, white and blue, or basically white with any color.

Big juicy watermelons and fruit salads for breakfast with a warm croissant. Sunsets and bug spray, sparklers and beach towels.  Water slides, hoses, and ice cream trucks.

Parades, tears, laughter, dirt.

Lilacs open the door to it all.

Sewing room chaosMy sewing room is in chaos.  I have at least 3-4 projects running simultaneously.

But all is well and all will be well.

The lilacs are in bloom.

lilacs2

Participating in The Splendid Sampler

Why am I participating in this project?

Partly, I think, because I like the designers who are contributing, partly because it sounds like a great way to slowly put together a quilt and share ideas with others.

6 1/2 inch blocks sound doable to me.  Even 2 a week.  But if you were to tell me I need to create 100 blocks and do this sort of “surprise” mystery quilt, I might not have signed on.  But 2 blocks a week sounds like a doable discipline.  Care to join me?

Here are the details for anyone who wants to participate.

Also, here’s a link to the blog.

The project begins Feb 14, so you have plenty of time to get ready.  Although all you really need in order to start is a decent stash of fabric.

I am going back and forth about which color scheme to use.

black tie affair

Black Tie Affair by Basic Grey for Moda

I love the neutrals.  They would make an elegant and timeless quilt.  But another part of me wants to use more colorful fabric and go with more of a “farmgirl” theme.

morningside farm

Morningside Farm by Darlene Zimmerman for Robert Kaufman

Here I would use the scenic fabric as a border with all the other fabric as the piecing in the middle.

What do you think?  They are both so different. I will probably wait til the block patterns start coming in to make a decision.

Dust off your sewing machine, and get ready to join in this creative collaboration.  The project will have a Facebook page too, The Splendid Sampler, moderated by Pat Sloan.

I’m sure you’ll have access to plenty of online show and tell, so why not be a part of it?  All the patterns will be available throughout all of 2016 for free, but then they will be put into a book in 2017.

Even if you never sew a stitch, it’s fun to watch the process.  What are you waiting for?

 

Quilt Market Prep

It’s that time of year again. Quilt Market is coming up and the fabric designers and manufacturers are revving up their marketing engines. Come May 15-17, they will be at full throttle and social media will be abuzz with new product, new designs, new fabric and quilty fun.

But I’ve always loved a good preview.

And fabric manufacturers are getting good at it.

One of my favorites is Art Gallery Fabrics.  Young, hip, fresh, at least by my standards.  I love what new designers (read: young people) are doing in the industry.  Art Gallery has released a Look Book of their new Spring 2015 fabric. 

Take a look and let me know your favorites.  Mine so far is Sketchbook and Happy Home, but I have to admit, I love them all and would be hard-pressed to choose.

Moda, the pop queen of fabric manufacturers, is also starting to tease some of their new lines. On their blog, we get a glimpse of the new Bonnie and Camille,  as well as Minnick and Simpson, Zen Chic and Fig Tree Quilts.

Stay tuned, as I will try to distill some of the quilt market info as it becomes available.  In the meantime, quilt on, friends!

grandneice

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New quilt in progress for my  grand niece,  pattern is free from Me and My Sister Designs.  Fabric is Airmail, by Eric and Julie Comstock.

 

 

What Have You Done With Machine Embroidery Lately?

machine embroidery2I ask myself that all the time.

My latest project is one I’m doing for work, which will be for a class in April.  It’s a part of Bernina’s Software Sampler presentation.  I am stitching out a ring of 8 designs to be used (ultimately) on a tablecloth for a round table.

It’s far from complete, but I promise to show you when it’s done.

But what’s new in the home embroidery industry?  Well, that’s where this gets interesting.

I have a few favorite sites that I visit, but I’ve noticed some trends and thought I’d share some of the best with you.

Urban Threads, always on the cutting edge (no pun intended) of embroidery, has a new Look Book out. You have to take a minute to browse…very fun stuff.

You’ll notice that lettering, in many forms, has re-emerged as one of the most popular uses for embroidery.  I see this trend at work very often as well.  Everyone wants an item that is personalized, whether that is for a wedding, or just a simple monogram, the birth of a baby, you name it.

Bernina has just released new, inexpensive software that lets you add lettering to any embroidery design or just create your own lettering in any true type font that you have loaded on your computer.

This is a big deal.  In recent years, Bernina’s software with lettering had an entry price of over $1000.  The new software, called Customizer, saves to any machine format and is available for under $250 at any local Bernina dealer.  But, as I say, anyone with any type of embroidery machine can use this software. Find out more about it here.

And all you techies looking for something new and fun for your machine embroidery?

I found just the thing.

Janome has introduced an app for ipad or android that is called AcuDesign.  It’s a $49.99 app.  But before you get nervous about the price, you have to see all that it does:

–Comes with 500 designs.

–Allows you to see animated stitch-outs.

–Edit your designs.

–Resize them.

–Send them directly to your email when you want to stitch.

–Save in any format, work in any machine’s hoop.

acudesign2acudesign1Might be hard to see on my ipad in this picture, but the way you scroll through the various designs is so easy, and the work screen is intuitive.

 

And if you ever need more info, Janome has created a webinar, over an hour long, that goes over all the features. (Love these gals in the webinar, they sound like people I should know!)

 

 

 

 

Finally, I am seeing a bump in interest in crazy quilting.  The website mollymine.com has a lovely collection of crazy quilt designs, from quilt blocks to holiday-themed.  And our friends at Designs in Machine Embroidery have featured crazy quilting on the front cover of their April issue, with a free crazy quilt design available.

dime

 

Soooooooo…..what have you done with machine embroidery lately?

We have a world of opportunities in front of us. And we haven’t even looked at Pinterest yet.

(Yet.)

Just another Blizzard/Snowstorm/Super Bowl Sunday

Yesterday after work, at about 5:30 PM,  I stopped at the local Meijer.

You would have thought that none of us had ever eaten before or would ever eat again.  The shelves were cleared of chips and salsa, although I found some on an end cap.  The stockers were angry and the check out clerks were exhausted.  The gal at the counter told me the store had been packed all day.

I couldn’t find any potatoes. They were gone.  Yes, all the potatoes were gone.

The Canadian bacon I usually purchase had been replaced by rows and rows of real bacon and Velveeta. And ribs. Sour cream shelves were empty. And I couldn’t even find my son’s yogurt.

The combination of Super Bowl Sunday and a pending snowstorm….excuse me…. BLIZZARD…were seriously almost causing the end of civilization.

suuperbowlblizzard2

Today, the snow IS falling, thank goodness.  The plows in the neighborhood have been few and far between. I heard one last night at 3 am, then again once during the day today, and that’s pretty much it.

Of course, I have been sewing.

I used a new pattern and assembled a couple of cute table runners for Valentine’s Day.  My goal is to get them to the point where I could spend the Super Bowl doing hand work by putting on the binding.

The pattern is called Rock Candy from Jaybird Quilts and the accompanying ruler is called a Sidekick.  This is truly a simple pattern to do using the ruler, and a fun shape for a table.

jaybird quiltsI did manage to get the binding on, and now I’m ready to sit and watch the game.

jaybird quilts 2The fabric is adorable, called Kiss Kiss from moda.

So get out your chips and dip, salsa and sour cream, your chocolates and cheeses and crackers and cookies. Turn on your big screen, enjoy the screaming crowds and the silly, raunchy, depressing, goofy, and tear-jerking commercials and half-time show.

As for me, at 8 pm I switch to Downton Abbey. Pass me the stress-reducing herbal tea.