Improv and More

I have started working on an improvisational quilt.

Basically , it means I start sewing before I have any idea what I’m creating. For anyone who knows me, this way of doing things is right up my alley.  I just purchased this book, “An Improv Handbook for Modern Quilters” by Sheri Lynn Wood.


Naturally, I flipped through the book and then started without so much as reading a paragraph.  I promise I will go back and read. The book looks great.  I just was inspired by the word “improv” and began immediately.



Here’s a sneak peak and to be honest , I don’t know how I will complete it. Just know that it’s a gift, so I don’t want to divulge the whole quilt til it’s been given away.  At that point, it’s done and there can be no regrets or turning back.  For now, it’s simply a work in progress.

In machine embroidery, I am preparing to teach a Software Inspirations class based on a tutorial from Sylvain Bergeron, Bernina educator.  In it, we learn to create textile fabric using embroidery…like argyle.

argyle1This is done completely in software, then stitched out as machine embroidery.  It can now be cut up and used as a handbag piece, or in a quilt, or basically used as any other fabric.  Would be fun to do a small series of these in different shades and then put them together as a quilt or table runner.  Although I’m sure this image looks black and white, the thread used in the squares is actually a mauve with white lines, on Moda’s black grunge fabric.

That being said, like many sewists, I spend a lot of time in the garden in the spring, head back into the sewing room when it rains or as the weather gets too warm and buggy to be hanging around outside.  I leave you with a few lovely pics from around the area this past couple of weeks.  The earth is stunning.


Peony tree

Wild  phlox

Wild phlox

Crabapple tree

Crabapple tree

Warble Me Now, for Joy of Lilac Time

lilacs1by Walt Whitman

WARBLE me now, for joy of Lilac-time,
Sort me, O tongue and lips, for Nature’s sake, and sweet life’s sake,
Souvenirs of earliest summer—birds’ eggs, and the first berries;
Gather the welcome signs (as children, with pebbles, or stringing shells);
Put in April and May—the hylas croaking in the ponds—the elastic air,
Bees, butterflies, the sparrow with its simple notes,
Blue-bird, and darting swallow—nor forget the high-hole flashing his golden
The tranquil sunny haze, the clinging smoke, the vapor,
Spiritual, airy insects, humming on gossamer wings,
Shimmer of waters, with fish in them—the cerulean above;
All that is jocund and sparkling—the brooks running,
The maple woods, the crisp February days, and the sugar-making;
The robin, where he hops, bright-eyed, brown-breasted,
With musical clear call at sunrise, and again at sunset,
Or flitting among the trees of the apple-orchard, building the nest of his mate;
The melted snow of March—the willow sending forth its yellow-green sprouts;
—For spring-time is here! is here! and what is this in it and from it?
Thou, Soul, unloosen’d—the restlessness after I know not what;
Come! let us lag here no longer—let us be up and away!
O for another world! O if one could but fly like a bird!
O to escape—to sail forth, as in a ship!
To glide with thee, O Soul, o’er all, in all, as a ship o’er the waters!
—Gathering these hints, these preludes—the blue sky, the grass, the morning
drops of dew;
(With additional songs—every spring will I now strike up additional songs,
Nor ever again forget, these tender days, the chants of Death as well as Life;)
The lilac-scent, the bushes, and the dark-green, heart-shaped leaves,
Wood violets, the little delicate pale blossoms called innocence,
Samples and sorts not for themselves alone, but for their atmosphere,
To tally, drench’d with them, tested by them,
Cities and artificial life, and all their sights and scenes,
My mind henceforth, and all its meditations—my recitatives,
My land, my age, my race, for once to serve, in songs,
(Sprouts, tokens ever of death indeed the same as life,)
To grace the bush I love—to sing with the birds,
A warble for joy of Lilac-time.


Feeding at the Feeder

feeding2feeding1feeding3My favorite moments are when the parent birds bring their babies to our feeders and show them how to eat.  I don’t know why but it stops me in my tracks every time.  The natural and spontaneous affection between Mama Cardinal and Baby is both endearing and instructive.  The baby is trusting.  The parent is protective and gentle.

It scares me when I watch the animals for any length of time.  It scares me because they behave just like we do in so many ways.

They are us.   We are them.

And I wonder if, just because we can agonize over every move, (Am I at the right feeder?  Will this feeder always be there for my baby? Is the food here healthy?  Am I teaching my baby the right things?) does that make us any different than the birds?  When all is said and done, we may be a little more complex and wonder about a few more things.

But it’s all a matter of degree isn’t it.  I can question more, care about more, work more, worry about more, suffer more.  But do I enjoy more?

The animals in our yard seem blissfully content with their lives.

Every day they teach me something new.

World's Most Relaxed Squirrel

World’s Most Relaxed Squirrel

Chicago Botanic Garden

flowers1This week I went to Chicago Botanic Gardens.  It was on my list of things to do this summer and I’m just squeezing it in under the wire before school starts.  I went alone.

And what a joy.

Can you find the hummingbird?

Can you see the hummingbird?


How did I live here all my life and not spend time in these gardens?  Actually, I was here  once before about 20 years ago.  I was managing a photo shoot and was overwhelmed by the work.  Were the models on time?  Was the photographer happy?  (Because there’s nothing like a photo shoot with an unhappy, temperamental, egocentric photographer.)  Was the merchandise correctly displayed?  Were we on time and on budget? Would the weather hold? I can barely remember the scenery.

But this time was a different story.  I strolled.  I took pictures.  I contemplated. I noticed.

It was lovely.

A few pictures to share.

I Should Be Quilting

Yes. I should be quilting.  I should be quilting because my nephew and his wife are going to have a baby that’s due in November and I am making them a quilt to match the baby’s room. (I’ll be posting that as soon as I actually begin.)

But the midwestern harvest is coming in and I spent the morning gathering radishes, onions, shallots, zucchini, and cabbage.  The local farm tells me tomatoes are still 2 weeks away here.  I am excited because for the first year in a long time, my tomatoes (knock on wood) are looking good.  Last year I had thousands of cherry tomatoes, but not much luck with heirlooms and plum tomatoes.  This year, all seem to be thriving– God willing, the critters stay away and the creek don’t rise.

So instead of quilting I have been sucked into a cookbook by Ina Garten that I got at Costco.

The book is called “Fooproof.”

IMG_1635Now, let’s be honest, we’re all friends here.  This woman, with her “traditional build,” as Alexander McCall Smith would call it, has got to be a good cook.

I bought a box of her brownie mix once and I remember the instructions (and I’m paraphrasing/recalling):

Take the brownies out of the oven when I tell you. Do not wait until they appear to be done.  By then it’s too late. Just DO WHAT I TELL YOU.

I like her.

Needless to say, they were about the best brownies out of a box that I ever tasted. Ever.

So I went ahead and made the crostini which you can see on the cover of her book.

IMG_1638 Here’s what’s left by the time I got my camera.  My husband is a big fan of bruschetta, but this was more of an elegant appetizer…and between the two of us we polished it off quick.

I was using tomatoes from the French Market in Geneva and some golden cherry tomatoes from HPM Farm in St. Charles. Picked some shallots from my garden with fresh basil and a few other local ingredients.  Can’t say this was the easiest appetizer I ever made, but hands down one of the tastiest.

Please don’t nag. I know I should be sewing.  But it’s mid-July and the veggies are so fresh, and the eating is so good. And thunderstorms at night mean it’s not a good idea to plug in the sewing machine.

Hey-there’s a sewing tip for the day!   Unplug your machine when you’re not using it. You will save yourself a whole lot of heartache if you have a power surge or brown out.  In fact, even when you are using it, you should have it at least plugged into a surge protector, or even better, an uninterruptable power supply.  Either one will sacrifice itself to save your machine.

Think I’ll go bring in my onions which are out drying in the sun.  And prune the roses. Weed the garden.  Fill the bird feeders and go for a little walk.

I KNOW.  I’ll get to the sewing room soon.

I promise.