Friday, January 19, 2018

A Prairie Journey

It's almost a book! Here's the cover -  A Prairie Journey, Small Quilts That Celebrate the Pioneer Spirit. Published by Martingale, it will be released in July. I am sooo excited.

Is this cover gorgeous or what??  Blue, blue and more blue - can you believe it? Makes you kind of swoon a little. But don't get too excited yet. It's just the cover; it's still not finished. I spent the last couple of weeks going over the proof pages with a fine-tooth comb, checking the layout and illustrations to see that there are no mistakes, that everything reads perfectly and that the instructions are clear before the book eventually goes to print. Making final changes and suggestions. Then it goes to the editors who will also do this. They still need to take photos of the quilts and add them. I spent days looking for antique photos that will complement the quilts and text. It's a lot of work for a publisher and takes a lot of people a lot of time. I've been working on it myself for the past year. But it's all coming together and I'm very proud and extremely happy with it. 

A Prairie Journey is now up on Amazon and, while it's still pretty early, I see that you can pre-order copies. Read the publisher's book description - 

"Inspired by yesterday's traditional blocks and today's reproduction fabrics, the author of the best-selling Small and Scrappy returns to share more petite quilts with ties to the past. Thirteen designs whisk readers back to an era when the time-honored quilt blocks today's quilters love were just making their debut.

"Stitch projects with names such as Wagon Wheels, Crossing the Plains and Aunt Sarah's Scrap Baskets, or make a Tree of Life friendship quilt featuring blocks autographed by family members [or friends]. Vintage photos and the words of pioneer women from the mid-nineteenth century, a time when quilting offered a welcome respite from the hardships of moving westward are sprinkled throughout."

The release date is July 16. I will probably begin taking pre-orders for signed copies sometime in May. (Just so you know, it will likely be a little cheaper on but the books are not signed if that matters to you.) Please check my website or Facebook page occasionally as we get closer to the release date and I will put any updates there. 

As you can see, my Welcome Home Mystery Quilt from last year is included. This is why I never posted my finished version. I wanted to surprise you. 

*   *   *

I hope some of you are already finished or on your way to making the first block of our NEW Mystery Quilt for 2018 - Friendship Garden. The next part is easy and will be posted in my small quilt groups and my website on or about February 1.

Have a great weekend! We're expecting a warm up and I'm afraid all of our snow will soon be gone. You know how I love the stuff . . . .

Friday, January 5, 2018

Mystery Quilt Sew Along

I'm starting another Mystery Quilt Sew Along this year. It's called Friendship Garden. The first block is an appliqué design. You can read about how the sew along will work by visiting the Mystery Quilt page on my website or going to the files section in my Yahoo group or Facebook group and clicking on the link called "Welcome to the Mystery Quilt." Then, download the first block.

Yes, it's applique! I took a poll and some of you said you wanted to do some applique this time so here you go.

Pretty simple but be warned, the pieces are small, so take your time. My leaves are slightly wonky. But it's finished.

Around the first week of each month through June, you'll get instructions to make another part of the quilt. Those blocks will be pieced, not appliqued, and posted on my website and the Yahoo and Facebook group file pages. 

I'll be sewing along with all of you and, if you keep up, your quilt top will be finished by summer. You can take the rest of the year to finish. I hope you will sew along with us! Our group members will be sharing their progress as we go along and that's a good reason to join the groups. Just click on one of the group links on the side of the blog to join in the fun. Please remember to read the files and patterns before you begin so you have all of the info you need. Also, it's helpful to read the messages posted in the Facebook group about the Mystery Quilt if you have any questions. It only takes a minute to scroll down through the posts. You may find that the questions you want to ask have already been answered. 

Beginners are welcome. This is a no-pressure, sew-at-your-own-pace project. If you don't like appliqué, no worries -  there is an alternate pieced block for you to substitute. The rest of the quilt will be the same. Choose your own colors and fabrics from your stash or scraps. I am making mine scrappy using some of my favorite reproduction scraps but the quilt would also look great as a two-color quilt or done in modern prints. Or, try wool for the applique. 

If you missed the Mystery Quilt for 2017, you'll be happy to know that I included it in my next book, coming out in July.

We'll also be working on small quilt challenges from my Small & Scrappy book during the first few months of the year. After the Mystery Quilt is finished, we'll make some quilts from the new book. There are a few really sweet appliqué quilts in that book so maybe now is the time to learn how to do appliqué if you've been procrastinating. Try visiting YouTube to see some applique tutorials. 

Here's the small quilt for January - Crow's Foot doll quilt on page 34. It's fast and easy and a nice little project to display for Valentine's Day. Or, make it in different colors.

Looks like it will be a good weekend to stay in and do some sewing. In addition to taking down our Christmas tree and decorations I need to do some other cleaning up since my sewing table got a little messy around Christmas. Also, look for some scrap bags for sale on my website next week if you're interested in picking up some of my random reproduction scraps to add to your own scraps for the blocks in your quilt. I'll be cutting some of them up this weekend.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy Quilty New Year

I'm so glad to see some of you were inspired by my attempts to get my scraps in order for the new year. Nothing like a clean slate. It will all be worth it when you feel like beginning a new project. Hope it's my Mystery Quilt, which we'll begin soon.

I cannot believe it's almost 2018. All in all, I have to say 2017 was quite a hectic year. I worked really hard and there were many ups and downs. My next book will be published by Martingale in July. I'm very excited about it. This is the best one yet. I know I always say that but this time it really is, LOL. They sent me a sneak peek of the cover recently and it's absolutely wonderful. I know you'll love it as much as I do, and the entire book as well. I'm expecting to get the sample mock-up pages next week and look them over before they do the final edit and the book is prepared to go to print. I'll share more with you when my publisher says it's okay. Yes, I know, it's a very long process to get a book from idea to reality, but oh it's all worth it. If you still haven't had a chance to pick up my last book, Small & Scrappy, I hope you do that soon so you can join us in more of the monthly quilt challenges we'll be doing from that book in the first part of next year. There are some cute little projects inside.

Also, I hope some of you had fun with all the events and swaps we held in the small quilt groups this past year. There will be more fun coming up in 2018 so you should join us (see group info on blog sidebar). We'll begin another Mystery Quilt sew along the first week in January, there will also be monthly challenges and our annual small quilt swap in spring, a signature block swap and probably another charm square fabric swap later in the year. (Maybe another retreat?) I hope some of you join in and participate in our online group events. It's a great way to make new quilting friends and keep in touch with the "old" ones.

I've been working on the new Mystery quilt pattern of the month and if you check back here in a couple of days, I'll have more info for you. I hope to have the first pattern available for you on January 3 or so.

My best wishes to all of you for a happy, healthy and quilty new year! Now go and finish cleaning up and organizing your scraps so you have a nice head start on a successful quilting year . . . .

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Storing Your Scraps

There's a brand new year looming and that means lots of new quilt projects. We're starting a new Mystery Quilt in January so I have to stay organized. Don't let disorganization keep you from creating. Often, it's just a matter of taking the time to do a little planning first. Some of you may have time now that the holidays are almost over to work on organizing your fabric and scraps and that's a good start.

I always hear quilters say they have waaaay too much fabric and they need to stop buying more. I've decided that, for me at least, buying fabric isn't the problem. It's finding a solution for storing it. Buying new fabric is a good thing if it makes your heart flutter and fills your mind with inspiration. Buying and collecting fabric is part of the reason we love to quilt. If you had only 10 fabrics, and were forced to use those same prints over and over and over, would you feel the same way about quilting? I'm guessing you would not. All of your quilts would begin to look the same. Color variety and new prints = inspiration. It's inspiration that jump starts our creative impulses.

So, if you find that you have an overabundance of fabric and that's driving you nuts, then think about some solutions to storing it all. Some quilters organize their fabric according to size - strips or squares. The most effective way for me to organize is by color, in drawers or bins. Larger cuts of fabric go in wire drawers.  Scraps or smaller cuts go into drawers or bins according to color. This means a separate place for each color if you have the space. If you usually work with many different types of fabric, such as batiks, reproductions or novelty prints, then this may not be practical. A better solution might be to sort them according to color in different containers, drawers or on separate shelves set aside for the various types of fabric. You should organize so that your fabric is fairly easy to access if you suddenly have the urge to begin a new project. 

The best method is the one you will keep up. Clutter makes it difficult for me to create and it can be a huge visual distraction as well. I try to clean up the fabric and scraps I use and put them away as soon as I finish a project. If my cutting table is clean and my scraps are already organized before I begin a new project, everything flows a little better.

Scraps and smaller cuts of fabric go here. 

Here are some other tips:

--  Get rid of unwanted fabric or unusable pieces. Just because someone gifted you with her old fabric, it doesn't mean you are obligated to keep it. Pick through and keep what you will use and then donate the rest to a school or charitable organization that may be able to put it to good use. Don't be afraid to "donate" some to your trash. Not all fabric is sacred. Except for the pieces you absolutely love, get rid of it. Don't kid yourself -  if there's any doubt in your mind, you'll probably never use it. 

--  Find a storage solution that allows you to simplify the sorting process and gives you access to it when you need it for a project. 

--  Be flexible and don't beat yourself up if you don't have time or can't get a handle on it all at once. If you know you work better and can be more productive if you're organized, then remind yourself of that from time to time. Taking even 15 minutes to organize a little bit or clean up your cutting or sewing table before you sew can make a big difference. It does not have to be perfect, just try to make a dent in it. I have a tendency to get bogged down by messes and I discovered that this is why I get stuck if I'm trying to create. It may work the same for you. If I find that I'm not eager to start something new I ask myself - what's holding me back? Usually it's the mess. I always make a mess when I create. Most of us do. But I find that if I hold onto that mess for too long, it holds me back and "messes" with my head. If I clean it up even just a little bit, my head clears and I find I have a fresher outlook.

If you're overwhelmed by your scraps, take a little bit of time to organize them. If all you can do is sort some by color and place into bags, do that for 15-20 minutes. Try sewing a little something from those scraps to begin the creative flow. Nine patches, whatever. Something happens when we do this. It's fun and relaxing and if you were feeling a little stuck, you'll be surprised at how sitting down to play with fabric encourages your creativity and motivates you to make something.

 Soon, I'll blog about making some little scrappy quilts with all of your organized fabric. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas, my quilting friends!

In the midst of all the holiday hustle and bustle, I was able to take some time to get in a little cross stitching recently. Not a lot but enough to make me think I really need to do some more as a nice break from quilting at times. I finished off some old projects I started awhile ago, reframed a few and got this little one stitched. It took me longer than I thought it would; my eyes just aren't what they used to be. There's never enough time to do it all but I find that taking even a few minutes here and there for myself is relaxing and worthwhile. Soothes the soul.

Almost finished

Almost finished. 

Thank you all for supporting me and my work as well as our little community of quilters. I always say I couldn't do it without all of you and it's true. I'm grateful.

You know I always get very sentimental around this time of year. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and are able to find some time to spend being good to yourself whether it be sewing or something else you find enjoyable. When we're kind to ourselves it's easier to inspire others to be kind. It's spreading the joy. This is the giving holiday after all and you know that does not only mean gifts. Give the gift of yourself to someone. Listen more. Be there for someone. Open your heart and share in the spirit of love, compassion, tolerance, kindness, understanding and sharing with others. The world depends upon it now, especially. Look beyond yourself to those who may need a kind word or gesture. It may really make a difference and we all need this now more than ever.

Okay, that's enough - I'm stepping down from my Christmas soapbox and wishing all of you a joyous holiday!

Even the Keurig got a gift this year - a new polka dot Christmas mug and an assortment of some delicious holiday coffees from Trader Joe's. Chocolate mint and caramel. Gingerbread. I have to try them all. Looks like I'll be up all night, waiting for Santa anyway.

Merry, Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Christmas Stitching

While my sewing machine is in the shop I decided to do something different. I took out my old Prairie Schooler patterns and thought I'd work on a little bit of cross stitch for a change. This always happens around the holidays. Every December I spend a couple of hours looking through all the Christmas designs I've collected over the years, thinking about all the lovely pieces I'd like to stitch. Occasionally, I even make something. Duh, it would never occur to me to start in July, when there'd be a better chance I'd actually finish something by Christmas. Oh well. 

Then, I pulled out some of my other unfinished Christmas items, like these Christmas tree mug rugs I started last year but never seemed to complete.

These are just too cute not to finish so I know I'll do that at least, if I get my machine back soon. And so I started cutting pieces for a few more. This is a free pattern on my website and in the small quilt group Files, by the way. 

For the December challenge in my small quilt groups (Yahoo and Facebook - see blog sidebar for links), we're making red & white quilts again. I realized I had to start thinking about what I want to make. If you don't have time to make a whole quilt, it's okay to simply make a mug mat or coaster. We're having a showing of the quilts on Facebook and Yahoo on December 30 so I've got plenty of time. I cut these pieces for one quilt and now have decided I'll probably make a different one instead. 

In addition to dreaming of all sorts of creative, Christmasy things I could be making, I started my Christmas shopping. Some of you are probably already finished. I just can't get into it if it's not cold or snowing. Well, we've now got the cold so out I went . . . .

Wishing you a happy December and may all your stitching dreams come true. Make a wish that some of mine come true too. I've been feeling pretty tired and lazy lately and since it takes me a lot of time and energy to write blog posts, I promise I'll finish writing the ones about making scrappy quilts after the holidays. In the meantime, make something cute and show me a picture of it in my Facebook small quilt group

Oh yeah, one more cute little stitching project I started and really need to finish . . . . 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving

Yesterday, we took what was probably our last (dog) walk at the park on the lake. It's getting way too cold and windy. That's Lake Michigan behind the bare trees.

Yep, Brrrr. It's November in Chicago.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you - the wonderful quilting friends I've met through this blog. I am especially grateful for your support and kindness all these years and hope that those of you who are celebrating the holiday have a blessed time with family and friends and safe travels. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Collecting Fabric - for Scrap Quilt Lovers

Recently, I met some quilters who told me that making scrap quilts terrifies them. They said that they're often intimidated and don't quite know how to put their fabrics together or even what fabrics to use.

Hexagon Garden from Small & Scrappy - one of my favorite little scrap quilts.

If you read the Introduction in my book Small & Scrappy (of course you actually read all of your quilting books, don't you?), you might remember what I wrote: that in order to make good scrap quilts you need to begin collecting lots of different prints in various colors. It's absolutely necessary to  have a "good fabric wardrobe" with a nice variety of prints in basic colors. I think every quilter should have a good assortment of prints in shades of red, medium blue, brown, tan, green, gold, indigo or dark blue, pink, black, purple and, of course, a collection of light prints or "shirtings."

It can be overwhelming to know where to begin collecting and developing a nice collection of fabrics. I know it's fun to just keep buying the same colors over and over again. But, if you're intent on making scrap quilts, then you need to go outside your box and pick up some prints that may not be in your customary colors. I love blue and always tend to buy a lot of blues. But if I only buy blue every time I shop, my fabric collection will suffer and so will my quilts. Because it does tend to become overwhelming, focus on building up your fabric stash by buying one color at a time.  The good news - this will involve a lot of shopping.

Next time you visit a quilt shop or shop online for fabric, in addition to buying yardage of what you love, try focusing on buying some prints in different colors you may not have in your collection at home as well. Perhaps buy additional half yards, quarter yards or fat quarters of just ONE color on this trip. I always seem to be low on gold and green. Not my favorite colors or used often as the focus in my quilts but I still love to incorporate them into my scrap quilts and need to remember to buy more. Then, the next time you shop, focus on only buying say, reds, or browns. Over time, if you shop often, this will give you a nice variety. And, you may find that this is a way to overcome the overwhelming feeling we all get when we enter a quilt shop and may help to keep the confusion to a minimum. There's usually inspiration at every step and if you see a quilt you must make, then go for it and buy all of the fabric it takes. Just remember to also build up your basic fabric collection while you're there. Also, if you make small quilts, then don't buy all large, busy floral prints. Mix it up and buy a few geometrics, stripes or checks, tiny florals and dots too. Save the large florals for the borders perhaps. When you build up your fabric collection this way, the next time you feel like making a scrappy quilt, you're good to go.

Bottom line - don't be afraid to buy more fabric. Sure, you don't need it and it's probably true, we will never use all of it up in our lifetimes. But, as quilters, it goes without saying that we are also collectors of fabric. Fabric is what drives us as well as the entire quilting industry.  You should not apologize or feel ashamed if you have too much fabric. Buying fabric is an essential part of the creative process and it often gives us the inspiration we need to begin something new. Stop and think -  do you really need 10 yards of a print you love? Or, will a yard or two do? You may be better off buying additional yardage of some other lovely prints that will complement that one and build up your collection. Don't hoard - share or donate the fabric you know you won't use. It's actually quite freeing to get rid of some of it.

For those of you who are new to quilting, it's common to lack confidence in picking out fabrics for a quilt. There's nothing wrong with following the same colors a designer has used in his or her quilt. Until you have a style of your own you may need to experiment with the styles of other designers so you can find out what makes YOUR heart sing.  But go and build up a nice collection. We're thinking ahead as I'm making plans for the next "mystery quilt" starting in January 2018. Hope you'll join us. You'll need lots of scraps.

Hope you have a good weekend. I'll give you more tips about storing your fabric and making scrappy quilts after the Thanksgiving holiday.


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