Monday, May 31, 2010

Americana blocks for Memorial Day

Up on the design wall for Memorial Day:
My guild had a request for a fund-raising quilt. The theme of the event is Americana, so I asked the members to make a red, white & blue block...any pattern, any size! 
I love to make sampler quilts with different block sizes. It goes back to my original T-Shirt quilt, when I wanted to use all the artwork, not cut up the shirt into standard size blocks. I soon realized the method I devised could be used with any collection of odd blocks. In fact, many times when I teach that class, I have someone who brings all their trial blocks and puts them into a sampler!

Although today is Memorial Day, about 20 guild members came for a "Mile-A-Minute" demo (see side bar for a tutorial post) and to get their first look at the Americana blocks.
We still get together when it's a holiday, which often happens on a Monday (we meet every Monday for one thing or another). Somebody always asks if that's a good idea, and I always say it is, because if even 5 people need somewhere to go that morning...well, they have a good place to go to enjoy themselves for awhile!
Quilt guilds have many reasons to exist, and among those are important social reasons. When the guild meets on a holiday we have a pattern to hand out or a simple demo...nothing big. Just a reason to come, if somebody needs to justify it.
Well, there was the year we met on Christmas Eve...and then again on New Year's Eve, when one of our members was inspired to make an entire Southern NewYear's good-luck dinner of black-eyed peas, collard greens and corn bread! My, my...that was something!
But sometimes it's just a Sit & Stitch when we can have a good time with grown-up conversation, sharing creative projects and solutions, and mainly taking time away from the crazy world we each inhabit. It's a bit of running away to Quilt World, a very healing place to go!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Quilt Studio: Fantasy vs Reality

It's true: quilters love "fantasy magazines"!
You know what I mean, the ones that show the winning quilts from Big Shows, make claims about "quick" and "easy", anything with paper-piecing a gazillion little bits (OK, that's just me.., some of you really are good at that!). We love to dream about The Perfect Quilt Life.
And just in time for our Summer-time fantasy reading, there is a new issue of Studios from Quilting Arts magazine (Interweave). I know, from subscribing to "The Quilting Daily" email that QA sends, which is sometimes an ad but often has very good tips.
The following are "Tips for Making Your Studio Unique" from the new magzine (as sent in The Quilting Daily today 5/20/10), and a few of my comments.
WARNING: some photos are not for the faint-of-heart

"Punch it up with bright colors"-- I believe they are referring to painting the walls, which would have to be done before the room was turned into a studio. Or maybe some painted furniture...that's good, as many of us have re-cycled items in use. But it's not going to get painted once it it is in the studio!
I say, punch it up with your own bright fabric, no doubt on display from being pulled for a project-in-process!
Yes, siree...there is nothing for decorating your studio like reurning home from Paducah and a retreat! The combination of purchases, multiple projects in progress, and inspiration (overload) is just divine!
(bright fabric was just pulled to complete the quilt top recently made with blocks from 1993!).

Use every inch of space-- What space? Oh, the space I already have filled up! If you've heard my lecture "Taming The Scrap Basket" you know Sunnie's Rule of Storage: All horizontal surfaces (including the floor) are storage spaces...until gravity takes over!

Carve out creative time-- Always excellent advice. Note the use of "carve", which Webster's Dictionary defines as "to cut with care and precision". Friends, be sure your knife is sharp, and carve out that creating time! I suggest you get it from house cleaning. Obviously, the amount of cleaning time I have should all be spent in the studio!

Get organized once and for all-- Being organized is good. Having a place for everything allows you to find it when needed, and put it back when you're done. Or when you finally get around to it....
 The "once and for all" is the fantasy here. There is no end to it! Organization is an on-going process...yeah, that's the ticket! Treat it as another hobby.
(Oh, no...I think I see some un-used wall space near the Kit Kat Clock! Quick...get the stick-on wall hooks!)

Bring the outside in-- If you work in a basement this is very important. You need some daylight bulbs, maybe a nice large picture of a meadow or garden. I am fortunate to have a wall of windows, and on the second floor, it's tree-top level.
And being large windows, I can usually see over the stuff stacked all around!
But they are also 100 year old casement windows, and I assure you...they definitely let the outside in!

Create all over the place--I've said it before and I'll say it again: you cannot justify the cost of purchasing dining room furniture unless you put that big table to good use! At my house, there is no telling what can end up on that table. You may remember this picture from two years ago:
Over all, it is good to be married to another creative person. You may have to fight for the use of the Big Table, but at least you can be forgiving when it's unavailable (sometimes for months...).

I do recommend the Studios magazine for some very good ideas & inspirations.
And the Spring issue (I believe) had Robbi Joy Eklow's studio.... I salute her for keeping it real in a world of  fantasy!
Do enjoy this magazine (and others). Then get into your studio and make art!
(well, after I manage to put a few things away..)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Quilt Retreat: The perfect get-away!

Does this photo look vaguely familiar to you?
If so, you've been on a Quilt Retreat! They all have a lot in common, regardless of the location: many brands of sewing machines, piles of fabric, and busy, busy quilters!

How many tote bags does it take to go on a Retreat?
Let's see...that's five, plus an Ott Light in a little bag.
By the time I was done, there were nine tote bags and I loaded most of them into a laundry basket for convenience sake.
I like to organize projects by tote bag, and took several with me. But my "packing" fell into such dis-organization that I had a couple tote bags devoted to stuff that I kept forgetting to put in another bag!
Not to mention two sewing machines (well, I might need a spare if one doesn'twork...) and a large suitcase.
This Retreat started on Sunday afternoon and went until after lunch on Thursday, adding up to four days!
Fortunately, the Quilt Mobile was more than enough room for both my excessive packing and all of Cherry-Cherry's things, too!
My guild decided to have a Spring Retreat because some couldn't go to the usual November Retreat. The place we head for is about two hours away, right across the road from Silver Springs near Ocala (Florida).
The Christian Conference Center is a camp, and not the motel-style accomodations some people like. But it saves money (for fabric!) and it's so beautiful there....
We stay in cabins that can sleep eight, but only use the bunks on "ground level".
When the beds are made with our own sheets, etc. and each has a quilt, it looks nice and homey here.The bathrooms have double everything, so it's actually easier than sharing a motel room!
We sew in the auditorium, eat in the spacious dining room, and leave the comfy lounge for hand sewing & relaxing.
That TV is for an evening movie distractions here! We come to sew and maybe take a nap. "Whatever you want to do" is the motto! The building keys don't get much use...often the last quilter up all night is leaving at the same time the early risers are coming in!
Everyone gets a big table, and there are extra tables for laying out a large project like the blue One-Block-Wonder. Basting a table runner is a quick job when you have a nice space.
What fun it is to see all the projects going on! Newbies and experienced quilters share with one another for a healthy dose of inspiration all around. This is the Kooky Star pattern I taught for the guild in January (based on a number of ideas, especially Gwen Marston's Liberated Stars). She finished it with a border of small stars on different color backgrounds...another fantastic charity quilt!
The array of equipment, I mean brought! Retreat is amazing! What a wonderful way to learn about machines, lights, special tables, irons and even chairs!
I discovered that a good office chair will fit into the Quilt Mobile along with Cherry-Cherry's & my supplies. That's beacause I had to bring one back home when you-know-who-you-are left it behind!
We don't plan too many extra activities for Retreat, but many people like a block drawing of some kind. These are pink/red flowers fused on black & white blocks. If you made 4, your name went in the drawing 5 times. Blocks were grouped into batches of 12 and we had enough for four drawings, plus one "mini" of nine blocks!
The brown blocks are one of Cherry-Cherry's projects, from a Brenda Henning book about using Bali Pops (sort of a flat jelly-roll, if you get the drift). Batiks....yummm!
Here's the work area we had:
I'd like to claim that blue project in the back, but let's face it...I am not going to be making a "Bella Bella" style quilt (based on the marble tiled floors of Italy). That was class last year in the guild. It's fun to see classwork spanning several years and finally getting done!
Our theme was "Spring Cleaning", and I can't think of a better way to do that than to leave home! Most of the quilters brought UFOs to work on. I brought one of my favorites: the President's blocks I received in 1993!
First I sewed them together:
The blocks are signature stars, and did not end up being the same. When I realized that, I set myself a challenge to sash the blocks with a different fabric on each side but matching the color of the star. The fabrics all had to come out of my stash and not repeat...and I did it! Then the project went into a box for 17 years. Now the blocks are together and have a little black & white border:
I refused to go fabric shopping on Retreat (though it is a popular activity!) so the top came home for border fabric. I have to "go shopping in my stash" for that to complete the challenge...I probably have even more to choose from 17 years later!
Another project was making Mile-A-Minute blocks. That's my favorite "brainless" sewing. The hard part for me is finally throwing away scraps! But I did end up with 40 blocks. Here are just nine of them:

I had my lap-top with EQ6 on it and played with some arrangements. I also "made" Cherry- Cherry's Christmas quilt while she was still sewing it, earning me the "Smartie-pants" moniker yet again. I can hardly wait for EQ7 to come out next month!
I did have another project, the one I actually sewed first. I was so proud that it used fabric I had collected years ago but don't need for a quilt now.

WARNING! This means you, Cherry-Cherry! And anyone with a delicate constitution.
Scroll fast to the end!

It was supposed to be a dinosaur quilt, but my son is almost 27 and doesn't need one  now! So I made a bunch of pillowcases:

They are folded in half...the green dinos are flannel! I think some little boys will like them, but this did lead to a very important insight about Retreats....

From now on, I shall try to bring non-ugly fabric projects when sewing in a group setting.
But I am thrilled to have used a bag of fabric that was taking up floor space in my closet!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shopping & Eating at the Paducah AQS show

I'm wrapping up my series of Paducah posts with two favorite topics: food & vendors!
The number one Must Eat every year is strawberry shortcake from the Boy Scouts Troop 200:
Get it with "the works"...whipped cream and ice cream!
This was right out in front of the Convention Center, where a large number of food vendors were set up along with a large white tent and lots of picnic tables. It made a great place to eat, meet friends, and just rest awhile. Do note the pot of geraniums...such a nice touch!
On the way downtown is a good restaurant called The Whalers Catch. They were also part of the "at the show" food service, with a set-up outside, and another inside the building.
I almost laughed my head off when I saw this:
Actually it's a good idea for keeping the shrimp on ice, but once they have been de-headed & cooked, I don't think they'll be swimming anywhere! 
This is one of many reasons to visit Cohen's downtown:
The world's fanciest chicken salad in a tomato! Ladies at the next table over were even looking at it! You can also get a traditional Kentucky Brown sandwhich here. Our waiter was a cute young guy, who said this was his first "Quilt Week" in Paducah. I am sure it was a real experience for him!
While we're downtown, it's time to get some PIE!
Who could resist that sign??? Besides we knew from previous visits that this place has the best pie, right on Broadway. What do you think:  
That is some real Coconut Cream Pie, warm from the oven! It was difficult not to drool on the postcards.
The little waitress was just so sweet, running back and forth to serve us coffee and pie. 
As we were leaving, I realized our pie indulgence had not gone un-noticed:
You never know who may see you through the window!
Road trips usually involve many stops at Cracker Barrel and Waffle House. It was a pleasure to eat at so many non-franchise places while we were in town. We also enjoiyed the Tribeca Mexican restaurant on Market Square and El Chico out by the interstate.
OK, enough food....let's see what was for sale with the vendors!
There are so many vendors at this show...I don't know how many! Hundreds! The rooms where the quilts are have vendors, and the big white Pavilion had maybe 100, and the Finkel Building ("Vendors on Kentucky" just a block past Broadway at the other end of Market Square) has a lot, too. And out at the Mall...and the Rotary Club show!
I am sure we saw them all, though I did not feel compelled to touch every fat quarter (which I did the very first time I went!).
It's not all fabric! This is Prized Possessions (from Texas). They make jewelry from antique buttons, and are the source of my vast collection of earrings. I buy from them at anytime I see them...and I'll see them again in September at QuiltFest here in Jacksonville, FL!
 Here are the high-end beautiful handbags and accessories of Laga Designs. These are made by people who were victims of the Tsunami in 2004.
Another group that has beautiful traditional handwork is the Hmong with their Pandou. It's sort of an applique & embroiderytechnique:
 What great little bags!
It's not a bad idea to do some gift long as I can remember where I've put these things when I need them!
Fabric is available by the bolt everywhere.....
 And if you need a new pattern, there is no shortage! All the latest designs are on display, along with established favorites. But what a thrill it is to see my own pattern right in the center of a vendor's wares!
Thank you, The Gypsy Quilter!  She carries all sorts of wonderful items for quilters, including a round purple pillow that helps your back, and lots of other ergomatic aids, rulers, and supplies.
Did you say you wanted some thread?
You can't beat the hand dyed threads & fabrics of Laura Wasilowski and ARTFABRIK.  I just love all those ladies from the Chicago area and the School of Fusing.
 My other favorite thread-of-all-kinds is this vendor:
Superior Threads has everything you need and the best customer service. Go visit their has everything you need to know about thread and needles!
So I bought some of the new Titanium needles (I'll let you know about those when I get a chance to sew!) 
I also got some Vanish washes out with water, just what I needed for making up kits for a "Trapunto By Machine"class in July.
Yes, I bought books (more on those later) but the last thing I want to share with you is that I bought my very first "jelly roll"! They have been all the rage for several years now, but I never bought one. I have shoeboxes full of my own 2-1/2" strips!
But since this year's show seemed to be All About Kaffe Fassett, I just had to buy one of the rolls of his fabric. It was a really good deal at Hancock's of Paducah!
You are absolutely right...that's not what you want to see!
THIS is what you want to see...
Now I need to think up a project...and I know if I need more Kaffe fabric, DeLuna may a piece or two...or entire collections!

Monday, May 3, 2010

Paducah, KY: it's also a real town!

Mention "Paducah" and chances are good (even among non-quilters) that people will assume you are talking about The Big Quilt Show. It also happens to be a town with a population of 26,307, a fabulous performing arts center, and a nuclear plant nearby!
Located on the Ohio River, Paducah has a series of history themed murals painted on the floorwalls ( the one honoring telephone operators is a new favorite of mine) and 20 blocks of the downtown area have been designated a National Historic District. Part of that is the LowerTown Fine Arts District where many artists have rehabbed houses and built makes a lovely walking tour!
I guess that's what I really like about going to the show in reminds me of the small towns I have lived in...if only they had been as interested in the arts!

Of course there's the area out by Interstate 24, with lots of motels, restaurants and Big Box Stores that you can find anywhere. The special place out there is Hancock's of Paducah, a fabric store/ quilters mecca.
During the AQS show there is plenty of city bus transportation to get quilters anywhere mentioned above, as well as the Rotary Antique Quilt Show at the Civic Center and the Carson Park fairgrounds, where Eleanor Burns sets up a big tent for sales and puts on her show.
I had not intended on doing a photo-essay (maybe next year?) but I am glad to share with you some views along Broadway, which is the main street. You can walk right down here from the show as it's only about three or four blocks.
There are many shops selling all sorts of goods, so if you haven't spent all your money with the show vendors, you will find lots of interesting things here. Ms. Burns has a quilt shop a few blocks away, and during show-time there are several temporary businesses set up to sell fabric.
Right on the corner you can see a little art sale, hear a band playing, and catch a horse-drawn carriage ride. I highly recommend that ride for a relaxing get-acquainted tour, and a fine close up look at the murals.

The Yeiser Art Center always has a fiber art show during the AQS week. Here's a peak inside...ssssh! don't tell. (if anyone really objects, I'll this photo down!)
This art center sits in the middle of Market Square, with a small brick street running down each side. Be sure to check both sides...there are shops and some really good restuarants, including a bakery that has been there since forever!
I'll be talking more about food in the next post, but Cohen's is a must-eat place. And it's haunted!
I've only been there for lunch.... not a good time for Sightings. But the waiter always appeared when needed.

You can't miss the mobile cow! She was an oft-mentioned landmark, as in "We're in the parking lot near the Cow...well, you'll know it when you see it!" (actual over-heard cell-phone conversation) (also note the murals in the far background!)
 You can read more about this place tomorrow...yummmmm, pie! But for now, just admire the beautiful wood and brickwork of the 1800s style in downtown Paducah!
We did manage to get to Caryl Bryer Fallert's studio in the LowerTown District. She has a shop in the front, a large studio in the center, and her quilting machines in the this:
What a jaw-dropping surprise to see "Seasonal Sister" hanging there!
That was the Best of Show winner at the IQA show in Houston 2 years ago, made by Annette Hendricks, Gail Thomas and Helen Godden. It's 99" x 56" and worth every cent of the $30,000 asking price!

Coming next:
What you really want...Eating & Shopping!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kaffe Fassett in Paducah

I am sure the real reason for this spur-of-the-moment trip to Paducah was because Kaffe Fassett was going to be there. DeLuna has been a serious admirer of his for many, many years going all the way back to his needlepoint days of the "Glorious Color" books.
As Bonnie Browning commented on yesterday's post, Kaffe rhyms with safe, and his last name is FASS-ett. For years many of his fans tried turning him into a cup of "caffee", but we should all be caught up by now!
An American who has lived in England for the last 45 years (with no detectable accent change) he lives for color. Take a look at any of his books and room designs to be WOWed!
We were too late to sign up for either class, and the AQS lectures were sold out (being in a much smaller space this year).
But we did go to his evening lecture at the Carson Four Rivers Center :
 It was such a treat to hear Kaffe talk while his quilts were projected onto the big screen. This a man who is not afraid of color! He wore a tastful purple shirt with purple jeans, too. 

This has to the most beautiful performing arts center I have ever been in, and that includes some cathedrals. I cannot believe I had never been in here before! This is where the awards presentations are made on Tuesday night before the show opens. From now on, I would say that is a "must-see" event!
I usually don't take these kinds of pictures, but I knew you would want to see the Ladies Room:
My mouth dropped open when I walked in here. It's too new to have ghosts, but if it did, they'd be elegant ladies in 1930's bias cut satin evening gowns!
A photo can never do justice to the fine materials used here.
I really hope the flash didn't scare the only other lady who was present!
Please go see the camera was not up to it's magnificent chandeliers, curving staircases and tributes to Kentucky!

Meanwhile, back at the show...
in the big white Pavilion there was an exhibit of Kaffe's quilts, You could get up close and personal with them:
This is my favorite because there is so much stuff going on in it. He tends to use simple shapes and let the fabulous fabric do the real work.
 It also shows a bit of restarint in color usage, Kaffe-style!
This is my other favorite of the 8 or so quilts on display. Big print fabric takes the cake! Or bicycle wheels, in this case.  Oh, my...I can't decide if the background or the border is more wonderful!

Like mounting a high-level battle plan, DeLuna & I went to the Kaffe & Liza Prior Lucy (his quilting partner) autograph session. The goal was to not spend hours in line.
We arrived early, and while DeLuna got in line, I sat on one of the benches with all our bags. I also had a nice chat with Louise from can start up a conversation with just about anyone at a quilt show. That's another reason for loving this show. I have talked with people from Japan, Australia, all over Europe and many of the United States.
DeLuna does NOT appear in the photo above, by the way. I have no idea who that lady is, but she looks a little bit like my sister!
I thought DeLuna had a good idea. Instead of having Kaffe and Liza just sign the inside book cover, she had them sign the picture of her favorite quilt!

To honor this Kaffe indulgence (and believe me, every booth possible had tons of his fabrics, which we had to go through!) I purchased a "jelly roll" very first one!
Hancock's had a super deal on them.
And that you shall see when I get around to posting about Eating & Shopping.
But first...
What does Paducah really look like?