My Obsession with Trees

I didn’t realize it until I tried to describe some of my projects to someone, and all the ones that reflected my own art and not just a pattern designed by someone else, usually included trees.

And if not trees, then at least something that grows in the ground.  I can’t tell you what it means, except that I have a deep longing to connect to the earth.

I recently pre-ordered a book that has apparently been wildly popular in Europe:  “The Hidden Life of Trees — What They Feel, How They Communicate — Discoveries from a Secret World, ” by Peter Wohlleben.

An article from the NYTimes  profiles the German forest ranger’s book.

I’ve always known that the natural world — birds, animals, trees, gardens —  have more to teach us than we ever give them credit for.  In the woods, I learned to listen, and look…much more than I ever do in my daily busy-ness.

Art is a struggle.  We are reaching, reaching, always striving to capture the thing beyond ourselves.  I do believe that trees (as well as the rest of nature) try to teach us something. When I break through the barrrier and discover the lesson, I will let you know.

Until then, like most of us, I continue to be a student.

close upIMG_3294

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

Multi-hoop project is quilted, bound and finished.

IMG_0742IMG_0741photosnap-carol

Missouri Star Quilt Company Birthday Bash

Guess where I was last weekend?  Guess where we brought 43 of our best friends?

Our shop organized a bus trip to Missouri Star Quilt Company and it just happened to be the weekend of their 7th Birthday Bash!  What a wonderful time we had — wonderful weather, great people and fabric, fabric, fabric!

Missouri Star Quilt companyAs you can see, the tiny town of Hamilton was hoppin’ the weekend we were there!  MSQC sponsored events like layer cake walks, a Pinata (filled with Aurifil thread, no less!  If you want to see quilters really go at it, dangle some Aurifil in front of them!)

Local vendors were out, with the local Lions Club fixing hot dogs and sandwiches on the grill, antique shops and 77 cent fatquarters, which MSQC kept filled to the brim!

They actually have 6 quilt shops in town, and if you’re thinking about making the trip, I will give you some tips along the way!  Here are the six quilt shops:

  1. Main Shop, has modern fabric, notions etc.
  2.  Mercantile has reproduction.
  3. Sew Seasonal had, you guessed it, seasonal fabric…every holiday you can imagine.
  4. Novelty. A whole shop of it.
  5. Solids and modern: think chevron fabric, Moda bella solids, Robert Kaufman, Stonehenge, etc.
  6. And the JCPenney shop carried wool, Snuggle, and other basics, as I recall.

We had a trunk show with Jenny Doan, host of MSQC tutorials. And may we just add that she is just as delightful in person as she is in the tutorials.  No difference!

msqc1IMG_4310She does the show with her husband, and the two of them are such a great partnership!

msqc3Some teensy little tidbits from Jenny:  this turkey MAY appear in an upcoming pattern and tutorial.

She also mentioned that they will soon be opening another 6 stores!  (Likely within the next month or so! (The new stores will include a machine shop, a wool specialty shop and one store with all wideback fabric!)

My tips for making this trip:

  1.  You won’t find any hotels in Hamilton, but you could consider their retreat center.  For us, the sleeping arrangements were a little too cozy and dorm-like for a bus load of folks. And the retreat center only holds a maximum of something like 37 people?  Not sure about that number, but not enough for us.  I HIGHLY recommend (and so does MSQC) GuestHouse Acorn Inn in Cameron, about 10 minutes away. It was clean and comfortable and the breakfast was outstanding…real eggs!  If you have a group, call the manager ahead of time to make arrangements, they are very accommodating.

2.  If you have a large group, by all means, set up a trunk show with Jenny…she’s a hoot and it’s wonderful!  Yes, there is a fee, but well worth it.  Call the store and tell them you’d like a trunk show.  They will put you in contact with the right person.

3.  Make arrangements for your group to have a meal at Blue Sage Restaurant in town. No kidding. Just do it. The food is fabulous!  Our group thoroughly enjoyed it at the end of a bustling day! The chicken pot pie is amazing. Just sayin’.

msqc4msqc5Had to share with you some of the murals MSQC had done in the town.  They are just beautiful.

msqc2IMG_4351IMG_4374IMG_4360This small town experience is one to be savored.  Take your time and enjoy your surroundings. I know our group really enjoyed themselves (and they MAY have purchased a little fabric too.)

Shipshewana Dreamin’ – Part 3

Don’t worry, this is my last post about Shipshewana.  I’m not a travel brochure.  But it was a peaceful getaway not far at all from home and so I just wanted to share.

I had the opportunity to meet an Amish woman who sells hand-quilted Amish quilts from her basement  —  some of them she works on herself, some of them she contracts out from others, and some she sells on consignment.

(An aside: the stark contrast between an Amish basement and my own is embarrassing. Hers was empty, with a few things on shelves, not a dust bunny or piece of anything unnecessary in sight.  Mine is filled with boxes from outdated electronics, old toys, old furniture, old books, old pictures.  What a cluttered, junk-filled life we live. )

Here are a few of the quilts she showed me.  This is just a sampling as she had many more. Make sure you scroll to the bottom, because at the end is an absolute masterpiece.

While she gave me permission to take the pictures and put them on a blog, she did not want her name given.  “What if someone sees a quilt and cannot live without it?”  I asked, in my total blundering non-Amish way.

She smiled and gave me a card.

So if you cannot live without one, leave a comment and I will privately give you her info. The prices are very reasonable for the amount of work.

While I did purchase a piece from her smaller-sized collection, everyday I think about driving back out to get the whole cloth quilt.  And who knows?  Maybe she already sold it.

But we can all still appreciate it.

This is one she did herself.  She pieces by machine and quilts by hand.

This is one she did herself. She pieces by machine and quilts by hand.

SHe chose the colors for this, but asked others to do the piecing and quilting.  She said she's not good at curves.

She chose the colors for this, but asked other Amish women to do the piecing and quilting. She said she doesn’t like curves.

amish4

Hand appliqued and hand quilted.  A beauty.

Hand appliqued and hand quilted. A true beauty.

This one is a masterpiece.  She told me an Amish woman in Pennsylvania gave it to her to sell on consignment.  It is a whole-cloth quilt, and the hand quilting is so perfect it almost made me cry.

This one is a masterpiece. She told me an Amish woman in Pennsylvania gave it to her to sell on consignment. It is a whole-cloth quilt, and the hand quilting is so perfect it almost made me cry.

wholecloth4wholecloth3

THe whole quilt was for queen size but with overhang, so very large.  the entire edging was in scallops with these lovely feathers.

 The edging was in large scallops with these lovely feathers.

 

 

Shipshewana Dreamin’ – Part 2

My first stop of the the day was Yoder’s Department Store which opens at 8 am.  Honestly, they have a TON of fabric, and every book, (including modern quilting books) imaginable. I love this place.

yoders3 yoders4I had vowed to myself during this whole trip that I would only purchase items unique to the area.  I love Moda fabric, but I can get that at home.  So I began hunting for “local” goods.

First thing I ran into was this display of reproduction toweling.  I could purchase by the yard and got myself a vintage-looking design.  They had some very cute tablecloths in carriers that looked like handbags and I’d really like to use the toweling to make a handbag…add a little ricrac and I’m good to go!  Also in the display was a special edition “Yoder’s 70th Anniversary” hand towel.  While waiting in line to check out, another woman told me she was going to use hers to create a quilt around it.  What a great idea!

yoders2Of course, I purchased a little bit of anything that had some local charm.

yoders1Do you collect Row by Row?  Get your Shipshewana version at Yoder’s.

rowbyrowNext stop is the Davis Mercantile where you can find many stores, but I just had to see the famous Lolly’s Quilt Shop.

lollysLolly’s is another wonderful place with everything you could want or need — current fabric lines, reproductions, batiks galore, and plenty of solids, books, patterns. Found a wall of Kaffe Fassett florals, with an opposite wall of all his colorful stripes.  Really the largest selection of Kaffe I’ve ever seen.

Lolly’s has a “sister” store downstairs at the mercantile, called Cuddle Corner.

Don’t miss it.

I was amazed at the wonderful things being done with minky!

cuddlecornerFresh textures, colors and patterns…all in minky!  If you have a baby in your life, you need to stop here.  You won’t believe how soft and cuddly this stuff is.  If you’re like me, you’ll want one for your own home for winter snuggling.

Special tip from the gal at the counter: a stretch needle works best with minky.  We have this discussion at work from time to time…what needle for minky?  This gal says stretch is best and I believe her, but I will try for myself as soon as I sew up my quilt.

cuddlecorner2cuddlecorner3Around every corner in Shipshewana, you’ll find merchants that are selling hand-quilted quilts.  Having done a bit of this, I fully understand the time, effort and work that goes into these kinds of handmade masterpieces.

wallofquiltsIn the next post, I’ll share a few Amish handmade quilts I was shown when an Amish woman showed me the quilts she sells for herself and for other Amish women from her home.

Hint: absolutely breathtaking.

Shipshewana Dreamin’ – Part 1

I recently made a road trip to Shipshewana IN…someplace I had wanted to visit for a long time.  I was not disappointed.

My trip overlapped the annual Shipshewana Quilt Festival by one day, but to be honest, I avoided the festival.  I spend a lot of time with quilters at work.  I’ve been to expos and festivals.  What I really wanted to do was experience what was truly unique to Shipshewana.  (Don’t worry, of course I visited the quilt shops…more to come on that!)

rearviewmirrorIt’s Amish country as you may very well know.  I was careful not to take any pictures of them, but they do not mind a pic from a distance or shots of their homes or buggies. ( I asked.)  I took several carriage rides and asked many questions.  They use cell phones for business and rely on solar panels and wind turbines for electricity although many of them also have propane or natural gas at home.

Spending time in this pastoral setting really reinforced to me the hazards of modern living: speeding cars with impatient and intolerant drivers, over-reliance on technology, and the toll the lack of fresh air and exercise takes on our modern bodies. All Amish, at least those in Indiana, ride bikes or take the carriages.  Horses look healthy and are a way of life for them.  So many Amish live and work in the town, I really expected them to hide from tourists.  But frankly, they are friendly, willing to talk about their lifestyle and very open and gracious…but private where any person or family would be private.

The way they decide whether or not to tolerate a technology is whether it will reinforce or tear down the community.  Cars will always be out, because it is a way for anyone to escape community rather than build it.  Same with TV’s and computers and phones.  But they live in a real world where they have to make a living so cell phones for business or compressors to help milk the cows are tolerated.

I took a tour of an Amish house, sat and ate a home cooked meal with a family, saw them milk cows, toured the farm and was genuinely warmly welcomed.  I visited the Menno-Hof, a guided tour museum of the history of the Anabaptists.

This farmhouse actually looks a lot like my grandparents’ farmhouse in Wisconsin.

farmhouse1garden1Look at this garden!  Every farm had a beautifully tended garden like this…not a weed in sight. Ever.

shipshewana1The town of Shipshewana is charming by any standards, with local restaurants and shops. I’ll give a rundown of some of the quilt shops in the next post.

In this photo, the carriages were parked at a house funeral for a well-known elderly gentleman.  What a lovely site.  And life goes on.

funeral1funeral2pies1

Quilting vs. Gardening: It Must Be June

I’ve been busy.  Too busy to write a blog.

And not only too busy, but too boring.  And while I don’t mind writing a boring blog, I’m not sure you want to read one.  All of that aside, I have also reached the point in the year where all good quilters/gardeners have to make some decisions.  Inside or outside.  Quilt or garden. Flowers and vegetables or blocks and table runners.

And while I may be able to hold it all in my mind simultaneously, I certainly can’t work on it all simultaneously.  So although I have some very ambitious sewing plans and classes lined up, as my farmer grandfather used to say (and do), “Make hay while the sun is shining.”  Of course, he made hay in August, but you get the idea.

In the hopes of providing a little temporary entertainment, here’s a gallery of recent flowers from the garden.  Most are done blooming, so I’ll be back in the sewing room shortly.  In the meantime…it’s summer…let’s all go for a walk!

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.

improv2

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.

improv1

 

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.

peonies2

Peony tree

Wild  phlox

Wild phlox

Crabapple tree

Crabapple tree

Late February

Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

IMG_3450IMG_3441IMG_3443IMG_3458

IMG_3433