Wisconsin Quilt Shop Hop 2018

Hey you Mid-Westerners! Grab your friends, hop in a car and spend a day in Wisconsin.

That’s what we did.  And we loved it. Now, it didn’t hurt that the day was completely clear, sunny, no humidity and just early-spring lovely.

It also didn’t hurt that the towns were all really vibrant and attractive. And the drive between shops was pastoral and rural, with neat, well-tended farms dotting the landscape.

Relaxing.

Get your details here.

Of course, we did not cross the entire state.  We stayed along the I 90 corridor, and still got to see so much in one day.

The Wisconsin Quilt Shop Hop ends at the end of June.  So you still have plenty of time. And if you miss the shop hop? No problem.  The stores are still there, just check the hours.  Shop Hop hours are consistent throughout the region. 9:30 – 5:30 pm week days, 9:30-4 pm on Saturday. Maybe I’ll run into you in Wisconsin!

Industry Consolidation – Cotton+Steel and More

Cotton+Steel

Just in case you haven’t heard, the 5 original designers of Cotton+Steel have departed and are no longer working with RJR, who was their distributor.

Apparently, RJR owns the name of Cotton+Steel outright, so the designers are leaving that behind.

Craft Industry Alliance has a detailed article about the move, which the designers announced on Instagram several weeks ago. It sounds as though RJR was having difficulty with technology, and deliveries weren’t being made to quilt shops in a timely manner, record-keeping and accounting was faulty, with a lack of training and many other issues that make or break businesses.

It’s a shame, as Cotton+Steel was a very recognizable brand.  The quality of the fabric was definitely superior, and that was one of the main reasons the brand had such a following.  The last collection submitted by the original team was submitted at this spring’s quilt market, which means it will likely hit stores in the fall.  After that, RJR has in-house designers who will continue the brand. It’s hard to imagine, as anyone who has ever used Cotton+Steel fabric knows, the designs are unique.  Frankly, the designers are the brand.

We’ll keep an eye on what they are up to next.

Machine Quilting Unlimited and Modern Quilts Unlimited

If you are familiar with these two titles, you’ll be sorry to hear that they are both being discontinued.

Everyone knows that the magazine industry is truly suffering, as ad sales are plummeting and online content replaces a business model that has outlived its time.

Still, I am someone who prefers to read actual books as opposed to digital, and I like my magazines the same way.

I would rather turn pages while sipping a cup of hot chocolate than stare blankly at another screen.  Nevertheless, these are two more magazines that will no longer be available.

I will, however, recommend instead, the folks at Modern Quilt Studio.

They self-publish magazines called Modern Quilts Illustrated which are full of great ideas tips and tricks.  They adhere boldly to the modern aesthetic.  They have been around for decades and I imagine they will be around for decades more. Their magazines have no ads.  This husband and wife team are inspirational, skilled as artists, well-known and respected in the industry, and all-around nice people.

As the industry changes, it can only mean one thing…opportunity.  The gals from Cotton+Steel will find their way to new and exciting endeavors and the rest of us will have higher quality designs and talent to choose from…if less assortment for the moment.

 

Old World Re-Discovery

I re-discovered a layer cake (10 x 10 in.) of this fabric from Moda that had been hiding in my fabric stash for a decade. Not exaggerating.  I no longer know the name of the collection. I tried to find more of it online, and it’s basically unavailable.

Now, like many of you, I have stashes of fabric that just don’t interest me any more. Sometimes I look at something I own, and wonder what in the world I was thinking. It’s dated or seasonal, or, heaven forbid, it was trendy and had a shelf-life of about 15 minutes.

But that’s the stuff I give away.  And, frankly, over the last few years, I’ve done quite a bit of giving away.

But this Old World fabric (that’s the name I’ve given it), is still fabulous.  Every time I look at it I think of Europe, of Jane Austen, of carriage rides and chats by a fireside, and afternoon tea..and maybe a croissant.

I still love it.

And so I recently found a pattern that’s perfect.

That’s a picture of the pattern on the cover of Miss Rosie’s Farmhouse Favorites. While it’s not a complicated quilt, it’s not terribly simple either.  Especially since the pattern calls for fatquarters and all the cutting instructions are tailored for that. As usual, I am switching out colors and modifying the instructions to accommodate the fabric I have and not what is called for in the pattern.

I have been cutting for days.

And I’m still not done as many of the squares will end up cut into quarter and half square triangles.

Still, because I fall in love with these fabrics anew each time I look at them, I am willing to start a project without thinking about how many hours it will take me to complete.

It’s like having a baby. Whatever you do, don’t think about how much it will cost or the hours of your life you will spend devoted to that project.  Don’t think about diapers or doctors’ visits, or bumps on the head, or homework, or cub scouts (or girl scouts) or spills on the sofa or orthodontic appointments or puberty or girlfriends or boyfriends or college exams.  Don’t think about the worry, the tears, the laughter, the arguments, the sleepless nights, the unexpected hugs.

It’s all just process.

And when we think too hard about it, we end up doing nothing at all.

So for today, I will enjoy.  And after all that cutting, I can finally start to sew.

The Zen of Mindless Sewing

Cake Mix Recipe, Layer Cake Mix, ModaIf you’ve never used one of these Cake Mix Recipe packets, you’re missing out on one of the most relaxing ways to sew.

All you need to begin is:

  • 10 in. layer cake of 42 squares, various colors
  • 10 in. layer cake of background fabric, all the same color. (Option:  2 – 10 in. layer cakes of background grunge fabric.  They normally come 20 squares in a packet, so you’ll need at least 2 packages.  I then purchased another fatquarter so that I had a total of 42 squares.)
  • Your choice of any 10 in. Cake Mix Recipe from Miss Rosie’s Quilt Co.

You can see above, that I chose to use a Tula Pink layer cake…lots of bold colors, paired with a Moda grunge that was very neutral.

All you need to do is layer one brightly colored 10 in. square against one neutral, right sides together.  Then just take one sheet from the recipe pad and follow the dotted lines when sewing.

Don’t forget to decrease your stitch length.  I lowered mine to 1.60. This makes the paper easy to perforate when you pull it off.  If you’ve ever used Thangles in a past life, this will all seem familiar.

But here’s where it gets relaxing.

Friends, you do not have to worry about perfection, except to follow the lines. Your paper can be slightly off center. If you’ve ever used layer cakes you know that no two manufacturers cut them exactly the same way, so they never exactly match up.  But it doesn’t matter. You have a good 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch all the way around as excess. It all gets trimmed off.  Just get it close to layered correctly and don’t worry. Follow the arrows, sew on the dotted lines, cut on the solid lines.  That’s it!

With these Cake Mix Recipes, you’re working entirely with half square triangles.

When cutting, if you have a rotating cutting mat, that really helps, so I would recommend using one. But here’s another little tip:  Use one of these clover rollers instead of pressing with an iron.

I fell in love with this little baby a while ago when I was making 1/2 in. half square triangles.  Yeah. 1/2 inch. Try pressing that.  Anyway, the tool works best when you are pressing only one seam open…perfect for this task, and any half square triangles.

As usual, I’m not sure where this is headed.  My chosen blocks will look like this, and I’ll just have to wait until I get more done to see how it comes together.  But that’s the fun of it, right?

I don’t have to think much.  I just sew sew sew.

Eventually, it all comes together.  Just like everything else in life.

Mindfulness gets a lot of press these days.

But sometimes, over-thinking is over-rated.

Know When to Hold ‘Em, Know When to Fold ‘Em

nickel quiltsQuilting is like gambling.  No, really. Stay with me on this one.

If you’re a typical quilter, as I am, you purchase fabric…maybe you even attend shop hops.  When you’re on vacation, you locate the nearest quilt shop and stop in for ideas and inspiration.  And fabric.

But when you lay down your money, you are placing a bet. You’re betting that you’re going to have the time, energy and inspiration —  in this lifetime — to use that fabric.  And the odds are good.  You, like me, have a history of completed projects, gifts you’ve made, accents around the house, finished, quilted, bound…complete.

You play the odds.  I do too.

But this week, I had to face the fabric.  I found a number of blocks I had started eight years ago (maybe longer).  I have all the fabric to make this into a queen size quilt.  I caressed the blocks.  I lovingly examined the fabric…already cut, by the way, ready for piecing. I inhaled.

I recently took a yoga class for the first time in twelve years.  (A lot has changed in my body.  For one, it’s not that easy now for me to get up and down off the floor.)  But the instructor had a calming voice and at one point she said, “Inhale….exhale…you know CEO’s and other high-powered executives have a hard time with exhale.  They can take long deep breaths in, but have the hardest time releasing, letting go, exhaling.”

And I realized something.  I’m no high-powered executive, but ALL my focus is always on the inhale.  The exhale is something I ignore.  The letting go, the release, is not something I ever think about.  My focus quickly moves to the next inhale.

So this week, I’m honoring the exhale.

It’s not easy. It is very difficult, EXTREMELY difficult, to admit to myself that I’m never ever going to finish that project I started eight years ago.  I gave myself this much wiggle room:  I will make the completed blocks into a lovely table runner.  Assembled, they will be functional, just not grandiose.  I will take it out in the springtime to celebrate their bright colors. But I will let it go at that.

And then I will exhale.

And fold ’em.  And let ’em go.

Quilting Using Machine Embroidery

machine embroidery quilting4I have wanted to try this technique for a long time now.  And I’m going to teach a class on it in the fall.

If you have a sewing machine that is capable of embroidery, you can do it too.

Many people love the look of a quilt that has long-arm quilting.  It gives a very polished, professional look to a finished quilt.  Most of my quilts I use free-motion and do them at home.  As you know this is awkward with larger quilts, twin size and up. But using your embroidery module to quilt is really worth trying, especially if you are someone who is comfortable with embroidery (hooping and hooping over and over…and if you’re not familiar, what a great way to get good at it).

embroidery quilting 1For this particular technique, I followed along with this book from Amelie Scott, “Edge to Edge Quilting on Your Embroidery Machine.” 

She provides special quilting embroidery designs that have an easy start and end point.  All the work is in the positioning and the time invested in the stitch-outs and hooping.

machine embroidery quilting2As you can see on my quilt, you will still be hefting around a a lot of fabric.  And by far, the trickiest part is calculating the number of hoopings and working out the positioning.  But that’s just a little bit of math and little bit of decision-making.

machine embroidery quiltingYou use 2 different files…an “A” and a “B” file.  You alternate them in rows so that the design looks randomly spaced. This really does work and the finished quilting technique is lovely.  While I can free-motion some great spirals or stippling or loops or hearts, I know I would never be able to get the perfect consistent quality of these daisies.

This 60 x 60 in. quilt took 32 hoopings, and my time invested was somewhere around 7-8 hours at the machine.  I love the way the quilting looks  — whimsical, yet professional.

machine embroidery quilting5 Would I want to do this for every quilt?  Of course not.  I like to be able to customize some of my quilts.  Is this great for gift-giving and finishing some of those UFO’s?  A resounding yes!  And a terrific way to get more use out of your embroidery module.  Your local quilt shop should be able to get you the book.

What are you waiting for?  Let’s get those quilt tops quilted!

 

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 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

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

Quilt Market Mash-Up

quilt market springQuilt Market 2015 is in full swing in Minneapolis this year.  If you’re not familiar with Quilt Market, it’s the place where all the fabric designers and fabric makers and product developers present their new products to potential buyers (shop owners).

It is a twice-yearly event, spring and fall.  I am hoping to attend the one in the fall, but we’ll see as things get closer!

For this year, I am content to live vicariously through social media.

If you want to follow along with all the chatter and visuals and news, here are a few ideas for getting the scoop.

On twitter, instagram and facebook, follow the hashtags:

#quiltmarket  #fqsquiltmarket #showmethemoda #modagoestomarket

Fat Quarter Shop’s blog site will be live tweeting, updating, creating youtube videos and much more.

Art Gallery Fabrics is streaming live at certain times during the show.  Find out more here.

Want a visual overview?  Head over to #quiltmarket’s Instagram stream.

That’s enough social media to hold me for awhile — especially since I’ll be working into the weekend.  Have fun and enjoy all the new and exciting stuff out there!