Parents, Paper Piecing and KC Maker Studio & Fabrics

After a nice weekend in southern Kansas, we made our way up to Kansas City on Sunday afternoon. I knew it was going to be a special Sew Together Tuesday for a couple of reasons: we were using my friend Sam Hunter’s “Bloomin’ Too” pattern and we were visiting a brand new shop: KC Maker Studio & Fabrics.

We’d worked together with Hunter’s Design Studio to get her patterns in stock for the event, plus she had all the Sweet Strips and a nice variety of Cuddle® fabrics in stock, ready to go. I felt pretty good about it, despite not having as much prep time as I would have wished.

As we were getting set up and I was making a post on Facebook about the day’s show, Hawke told me I needed to help him get something in the RV, so I started heading that way, still typing away and he started recording…

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Studio Visit with Heather Jones

When I first met Heather Jones, years ago, she was creating quilt patterns and I was enamored by her oversized-quilt-block style. I bought a couple of her patterns, chatted with her at Quilt Market when we’d see each other, and followed along with her career trajectory via Instagram.

Over the past few years, I’ve watched as she made the transition from pattern designer to textile artist, intrigued by both her technique and her path.

I realized we would pass near Heather’s studio in Dayton, Ohio on our travels so I reached out and she was kind enough to let me visit her. She has a fabulous studio where she shares space with Divisible Projects, a joint effort with her husband, Jeffrey Cortland Jones.

“Chasing Down the Days” by Heather Jones, 2021 + additional works

I don’t know a lot of folks personally who work in textiles as their art form, so getting the chance to talk to her was ridiculously fulfilling. Coming from an art background, moving through the craft of quiltmaking and back into art as a textile artist in her own right, Heather’s perspective is different than mine. I come from it from the craft side and trying to find my feet in it as an art form.

To me, this is a fascinating difference and one that I’ve discussed with Hawke numerous times. I have never been one to just draw something. I don’t doodle. I don’t have a drive to pick up a pencil and sketch something. Ever. I’ve never taken an art class. All of this to say, that creating a piece that “says something” isn’t how I’ve worked.

“Your Voice Was All I Heard” by Heather Jones, 2021

I come from the craft side, which means I prefer to follow sewing patterns and sometimes even (gasp!) buy quilt kits. It isn’t that I’m not creative, I’ve realized, but rather that I haven’t been taught how to translate my thoughts into art. This past year I’ve been trying to learn more about this and push myself to understand this transition and what I want from it.

This fed right into the conversation that Heather and I had. I picked her brain on how she works with the fabrics and what the overarching goal is. I got to ponder my obsession with perfection and how it keeps me from exploring techniques the way I truly want to. She shared how the imperfections and inability to control exactly what the fabric does is what brings joy to the work.

This rumination about perfection and control is really what stuck with me. We spoke about the Gees Bend quilters and the imperfectly perfect quilts that have come from them. About the quilts that have just a few blocks with a different background because the maker ran out of fabric. The wavy lines that come from stretching a quilt block when you didn’t account for the grainline.

Create wall mural

In that discussion I found the root of my struggle to feel like a textile artist of any sort. How do I start if I give up the drive for perfection and control?

The morning convo with Heather inspired me in ways that I hadn’t expected and made me think about things I hadn’t really thought about. I see her art with new eyes, new admiration and it inspires me.

Go. Do. Make. Art.

Sew Together Tuesday and the ultimate Shop Hop

If you’re like me at all, you love a good shop hop. It’s always fun visiting new stores and checking out the displays, the fabric selection, the notion wall… all of it! Starting in less than two weeks, I’ll be embarking what I think will be the ultimate shop hop.

Hawke and I are taking our Sew Together Tuesday on the road and doing our Lives from 10 different shops across America, every Tuesday a different store in a different state. Crazy, right?! Yes, but it’s going to be so great!

You’ll be able to join in, both in-person and online for the Tuesday sessions, but wait… there’s more! HA! I’ll be teaching additional classes in each of those shops, plus a slough of weekend classes as well. I’ve listed them all in my calendar, so keep an eye on those upcoming events listed to the right —–>

Over the twelve weeks I’ll be teaching at 16 different shops:

Cali Quilt Co (Rancho Cordova, CA) 
The Fig Leaf Quilting (Fort Collins, CO)
The Quilt Shop (Wakefield, NE)
Old Alley Quilt Shop (Sherburn, MN) 
Red Roxy Quilt Co (Decorah, IA)
Time Flies Quilt & Sew (Negaunee, MI)
Blue Bar Quilts (Middleton, WI)
Always in Stitches (Noblesville, IN) 
Quilt Beginnings (Dublin, OH)
Sew It Up Bernina (Hurst, TX)
Poppy Quilt & Sew (Georgetown, TX) 
KC Maker Studio & Fabric (Kansas City, MO) 
The Pin Cushion (Mitchell SD) 
Sew On & Sew North (Langdon, ND) 
Quilts & More (Sidney, MT) 
Backdoor Quilt Shoppe (Billings, MT) 

I can’t wait to get out there and share the LQS love with everyone. I’ll be doing store spotlights and impromptu visits, searching out and sharing shops along the way.

If you’re interested in following along on our travel adventures (especially on our days off!), make sure to subscribe to Makers At Large, the blog I am doing with Hawke.

Missing Horseshoe Bend {American Travels Quilt Series}

If you are looking at this picture and thinking “That’s not Horseshoe Bend,” you’d be right. It’s nearby, but this certainly isn’t it.

On our road trip last August, Hawke and I were heading north around the eastern side of the Grand Canyon. It was our third day on the road and we were heading toward Zion National Park; we didn’t have reservations anywhere and wanted to get to our next sleeping spot as early in the day as we could. We were making good speed, but as with all road trips, a bathroom break was needed, so we stopped at what looked like a rest stop. Turned out it was for a hiking trail and the fellow at the gate explained that it was just a 20 minute hike if wanted to do that after using the bathrooms, but we demurred and he let us through to use the facilities then hit the road again.

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Dignity Quilt {American Travels Quilt Series}

In Chamberlain, South Dakota there is a sculpture of an indigenous woman that stands 50 ft. tall along Interstate 90. For years now I’ve wanted to “someday” see it in-person. She carries one of my favorite quilt designs, a Lone Star quilt, billowing behind her and she towers over the hills and the Missouri River. The pictures I had seen were amazing, but as with most places, the pictures can’t do it justice.

Hawke and I were almost to the end of our week when I realized that our path toward Omaha would take us directly by her. We had to stop.

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American Travels quilt series

I used to spend almost half my time on the road, traveling the United States while teaching at quilt shops and conventions. Over the past year, that work travel stopped and it was a shock to the system. To all my systems.

We started weekly sewing classes on Facebook Live, so I kept on teaching (albeit it in a completely different way) and I was happy to finally be eating homemade food rather than restaurant food.

But one of the biggest revelations after months of lockdown was just how much I had loved the side benefits of seeing this country, learning its history, trying local foods and stopping at roadside attractions. I’d learned a lot in the three years I’d been a traveling sewing/quilting teacher.

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Desert Days

Living in the middle of Los Angles during this coronavirus pandemic has been, for lack of a better word: interesting. We are surrounded by millions of other people, yet our apartment faces a cement wall that abuts the Interstate 5 freeway. Through fences and gates, I can see another road, but it hasn’t been busy in months. Two months ago, hardly anyone crossed in front of our space, but now it’s become a walkway to the climbing gym next door. It’s been lonely, then weirdly busy.

It’s quieter than it was last year at this time, but with the freeway right there and a train yard within throwing distance, there’s always noise. Always. I hadn’t realized how much it was wearing on me until my partner Hawke and I took off for a desert weekend.

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An Imperfect Storm at Sea

A month ago I was in Houston for both Quilt Market and Quilt Festival. Two weeks hanging out in the Shannon Fabrics booths during the day and in the hotel room at night. It was super fun and super duper tiring. My favorite part of these eventsis seeing what is happening out in the quilting world. I don’t get to shops very often and rely on the Internet too much to keep me abreast of what’s new and exciting. So getting out and walking the aisles at Quilt Festival was a real treat.

In one of my quick forays out, I ran across the Flynn Quilt Frame Company booth full of tiny little quilts. Intricately-pieced traditional designs. While I love a good modern quilt, I’m a sucker for the traditional as well. I couldn’t help but swoon over the array and it didn’t take me long to settle on this itty bitty  Storm at Sea kit. (And the fact that it’s been out for 8 years and I’ve never seen it before makes me a little sad, but we’ve remedied that!)

Storm At Sea mini quilt kit

I’m a sucker for a good challenge and this one ranked right up there. I’d brought along my Singer Featherweight so I didn’t have to go weeks without sewing (because you know I’d lose my mind). I pulled the little machine out of the box that night and started piecing the laser-cut square-in-a-square bits. mini square in square blocks

You don’t even have to look that closely to see that most of them aren’t even real squares. The 1/4″ seam allowance wasn’t perfectly straight on each one. Angles ended up being slightly wonky. But that wasn’t the point of this project… I just wanted to make it  for my mom. I could do it perfectly and make it frustrate me. Or I could just sew it up because I love my mom and know that she likes purple and she won’t care that it isn’t perfect because either am I and she still loves me.

sewing my Storm at Sew mini

I sewed after Quilt Festival closed each night and spent a few more days working on it after Festival and before I went back home to Los Angeles. The need for perfection is there, assuredly, and there were a few times I had to take stitches out to get it slightly closer to perfect. But my mom is worth it.

laying out my Storm at Sea mini

I sewed the sections, one bit at a time until I could lay them out on the floor. I was hoping I could get some cool layout with them, but truthfully  Quilt Market Hangover is real and when you add in a little Quilt Festival Hangover, too, my brain was just too too tired to do anything really fun with it. I convinced myself that it was pretty enough as is.

Sewing together Storm at Sea blocks
Each quilt block finishes at 4 1/2″ wide (ish), so room for error was basically nil. Most of these blocks didn’t come anywhere near the perfection that I had wanted and there were a few times I had to talk myself out of simply throwing them all away. Those little overhangs and wonky intersections that don’t match… Even now they kill me a little, but this was an exercise in just letting go. Let it be. Don’t get stressed out about it. Just do it with love and acceptance. This mantra repetition was so hard for me, to be honest, but I knew I needed it. I can be ridiculously hard on myself for no reason.

I’m sure I’m not the only one either. We can all pick on ourselves more than we should and there are so many times where the internal berating has made me do some dumb things (take a rotary cutter to an imperfect quilt block, throw away an unfinished dress, toss out patterns). None of these things make me feel better in the end; they only reinforce my self-bashing. I swore I wouldn’t and I didn’t. Instead I just worked through it, tried my best without getting angry for the mistakes and finished the whole top.
As a whole, I thought it was beautiful and I convinced myself to stop looking at the little bits. Take in the big picture–it’s a lovely little quilt top. But it needed to be quilted and I really, really am not good at that one yet.

I gave it a try on my regular Pfaff 130 with the industrial motor. Great for piecing, not so quilt for quilting this guy. Despite using a walking foot it would get help up on seam intersections. It didn’t stay straight. I quilted about half of it. Had a good cry and picked it all out.

quilting with the Singer FeatherweightI took it to the Featherweight instead and that little beauty did it as well as I could have ever expected. I have a lot to learn on how to make the quilting look good and keep it even, but hey, it turned out. It’s usable. I won’t be humiliated to have my mom hang it in her home.

I’m not perfect. Either are my quilts. I’m learning that that’s okay.

Storm at Sea mini quilt

New Adventures, Coming Right Up

When you love sewing and quilting as much as I do, it can get a little crazy and let me tell you, my storage room was absolutely insane. The amount of fabric, patterns, books, notions, and tools was out of control and when I decided to take a new job in Los Angeles, I knew it was time to finally bring some sanity back to the mayhem.

It took me two full weeks, a yard sale and a massive donation to an art teacher friend of mine before it was brought down to a manageable level. I weeded out at least 2/3 of what I was storing (knowing full well I would never have the time or desire to use it all). It was only mildly painful to watch my fabric go away, but with the cash I earned I was able to justify the extra week off work between jobs. Hearty thanks to everyone from the Portland Modern Quilt Guild who came by, said hello, wished me well and gave my stash a new home. Mwah! 

I left that whole shelf unit in Portland, but then packed up (most of ( my works-in-progress, tools, sewing machine and sole mode of transportation into a UBox. Let me say that was not the easiest thing I’ve ever done. I honestly thought I might actually puke watching it drive away, hoping beyond hope that I’d see it again once I got down to Los Angeles. 

A week later I hugged my kids goodbye and boarded an airplane for L.A. I’ll be staying with my pal, Luke, for a while, getting acclimated to a whole new thing here. I’m incredibly grateful for his kindness and it’s just another example of friends being the ones are there for me.

So here we are…a month since my whole life shifted. I’ve got a lot to figure out still and hoping for the best, but so far any worries I had have been pointless and things are coming together nicely.  I guess it helps that I’m always up for an adventure.

So much writing to do, so little time

Most of you probably know that I spent some time with my kids in Vietnam a few years ago, but if you don’t, you can see the brief recap in this little video (I made for a continuing education course):

I knew I wanted to write about it even before we left the country because what we were doing was different from most families, let alone single-parent families. I blogged it all and took copious notes then started writing the book in 2008.

I went for it with gusto, writing at night, forming a critique group. I really was going to write a book, I thought. Then life got a bit derailed and I  questioned my ability to write, my parenting choices, the audacity (not to mention hubris) to pen a memoir. I gave up completely.

But when I returned to Portland last summer, the writing group I’d started back when I first began writing the book was still plugging along and still encouraging me to get back in the saddle and finish this damn book. Several months later, I gave in and started editing the 60k+ words I’d managed to get onto paper.

I’d originally written it all in present tense and was absolutely sure that’s what I wanted. Then one reader after another mentioned that the tense bothered them, took them out of the story. Instead of making all the changes that would be required to put it in past tense, I simply quit working on it.

Now I’m back at it, spending weeknights at a local pub, making the edits my critique group encourages. Wondering how seven years have passed since I first began.

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This weekend I got the chance to really sink into it at a family friend’s cabin at the beach.  As of this morning, I have 28,662 words written, edited and ready for the To-Print file.  This makes me ridiculously happy. Happy enough to head down to the water, even amid the wind and rain, to catch a little break.

It’s so nice to be excited about the book once more and I’m ever grateful to Michele, Steve, Natalie, Jaymee and Prado for supporting this project since the beginning. XO.

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