March 2011 - Posts

Blankets for Babies

The fabric was really flying at Hip Stitch fabric boutique and sewing lounge in Albuquerque, New Mexico, this past weekend! Saturday, March 19, was National Quilting Day, of course, and stitchers from Project Linus Albuquerque and the Albuquerque Modern Quilt Guild came together in the back room at Hip Stitch to sew blankets for Project Linus. (A worthy way to observe the q-holiday, I think. And because the staff at Quilter's Home magazine is sprinkled throughout four different time zones, we all had to find our own way to celebrate. I decided to throw my thread in with the gang assembling at Hip Stitch.) The morning crew at this daylong event numbered about 8 to 10, as people came and went, donating whatever time they had. These sewing machine warriors were churning out flannel-backed toddler quilts like nobody's business, using a well-honed system that was built for speed as they made comfort (to obliterate a well-known phrase). 

Hip Stitch owner Suzanne Kelly, who kindly hosts the Albuquerque Modern Quilt Guild AND the Albuquerque Modern Sewing Guild monthly meetings in her shop, was pleased to turn her workroom over to the cause. Hip Stitch is also a Project Linus drop site. Project Linus-Abq coordinator Ami Peterson says the group started the day with a total of 20 pre-cut "sandwiches," and that's about how many got finished, with more pre-cuts going home with people at the end of the sew-in to be finished later.



Abq Modern Quilt Guild member Bralia Mease



Project LInus Albuquerque "blanketeer" Carol Driscoll



Now, yours truly took a slightly offbeat approach to this day of charity sewing. Awhile back I had been gifted some random quilt blocks by a friend who did some de-stashing. (And her stash included some de-stashed stuff from one of her friends, so we're talking blocks with miles on them.) So I re-purposed these orphan blocks into a toddler-sized quilt top which will eventually go to Project Linus. It took some hacking and finessing to get these blocks--many made for classes, I think--into a reasonable conglomerate before I had to head home to make lunch for my husband, who is mending a broken leg.

Hmm, I have to say it looks better in person than it does laying on the rug. (Oh, well.) But with some batt, backing and a few lines of stitching, this re-purposed patchy baby will go off to cuddle some other deserving baby and it'll all be good.

Meanwhile, high fives to all the stitchers who turned out for this charity sit-and-sew!

-- Melissa Thompson Maher



Quilting 911


Hey, Q-bies! Today's guest blogger is Scott Hansen of Blue Nickel Studios. Read all about his adventures designing a quilt with the inaugural Ty Pennington's Impressions  collection. And for a glimpse of the man himself snuggled in Scott's new creation (on the beach in Florida, probably barefoot, ready to kick back...don't you wish you were there, too?) don't miss our April-May 2011 issue. Now on newsstands!  

The text message said it was a quilting emergency. That made me laugh, and it made me intensely curious. Just what is a magazine editor's quilting emergency?

            So I called Quilter's Home editor Jake Finch right away to find out what was so dire. She said that Quilter's Home needed a quilt for an upcoming cover--stat!--and not just any quilt, but one featuring Ty Pennington's new line of fabrics created for Westminster Fabrics. For the cover shot, this quilt would be wrapped around the man himself.

            Random thoughts flew through my head about deadlines and day job commitments that I had to see through, but in the end, the awesome opportunity and a healthy dose of crazy pills won me over.

            "Sure! I'll do it!" I said.

            The first step was to pick the fabrics I wanted to use from his new line, Ty Pennington's Impressions. It wasn't easy; there were a LOT of different choices! I always wonder when I pick fabrics from a website what the scale of the prints will be when they come in. Rarely do I guess right. Even if they have those little rulers on the pictures, I still don't pay close enough attention. But I decided to go for the grey/green/coral combo and waited for the fabrics to come in the mail.


            I also needed to find out more about Ty while I was planning the quilt. It's something I do with every quilt I design around one collection. I want to know more about the designer, what they are like and what they are trying to get across with their designs. This is a throwback to my days as an English major, always looking for an author's point of view. I have to admit that while I knew who Ty Pennington was, I really hadn't seen him in action before.

           So I watched the video on his website about his design process for this fabric collection, and I have to admit it was really quite interesting. I loved how he used woodcuts (were they actually made from wood? I don't remember now) and house paint to develop his basic designs. Very earthly and hands-on, I thought.  


           Then I watched part of one of his shows on Hulu. He's a busy guy, and the nice guy act is, well, not an act at all. He seems very genuine! I'd like to meet him in person, but he'll have to stop by here, because he gets around a lot more than me. I wouldn't certainly wouldn't mind if he came along and tore down the old trailer on our property that we used to live in, and replace it with a beautiful new studio. I wouldn't mind that at all. Really! (Major hint, Ty and crew.)

            So, I decided to do something builder-ish with a Log Cabin block for the Ty quilt. Makes sense, right? I also was playing around with matchstick borders, and they started looking bricks turned on their side..., and that's how Brick House I was born.


            Did I mention that I wanted to be an architect when I was young? Or that I built my own house? Two more reasons why I was happy to get hooked up with Ty. And, I have diligently kept this special project a secret for what seems like light years! Me and Ty, we go way back, all the way to December 2010, although I really haven't talked to him directly...his people talked to my people--no wait--I am my only people....

            Anyway, thanks to Jake and her colleague, Melissa Thompson Maher, for this opportunity and thanks to Ty for designing such a great line of fabric. In the somewhat near future, check out my blog for another version of Brick House I made using the blues and greys of Ty's Impressions. And heck, just come on and stop by the Blue Nickel Studios for a visit anytime of day. In Blogville, the Studios are always open for guests.--Scott Hansen    


Healing art

My brother Peter is a year younger than me and lives in Fairbanks, Alaska. On Feb. 3 he  was involved in a horrible car accident. He was entering the local highway, lost control of his car on a turn and sailed through a guardrail. He went airborne, hit a light pole and then fell 30 feet down an embankment next to the Chena River, which runs through the city.

            He was not speeding or drinking and was wearing his seat belt, which saved his life. Several witnesses called the accident in immediately and within several hours, emergency personnel had my brother out of the car and airlifted to Anchorage, where he underwent immediate brain surgery for severe blunt force trauma to the left side of his head.

            Today, nearly three weeks later, Peter sits in Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where he continues to make a slow, but steady, recovery. While we won't know about the extent of any brain damage until he's fully able to speak (and he's still on a trach ventilator that prevents this), all signs indicate that he's doing great and there may be few, if any, permanent issues after rehab.

            So, what does this have to do with quilting? Within a day of getting this horrid call, I sidelined my work as editor of Quilter's Home magazine, and hopped on a plane to Alaska to be with my brother. We're tight, very tight, and the thought of losing him at the age of 42 was unbearable. Altogether, I spent eight days at Providence watching him breathe and encouraging him to heal and come back to us. He's got two little kids and was getting ready to propose to his girlfriend (I knew about it and then we found the ring he'd just bought her) so this was just heartbreaking on too many levels. He spent 16 days in the Adult Critical Care Unit and for most of the time that I was in Alaska I was in there with him.

            My sister, his girlfriend and I stayed in the residential hotel attached to Providen that is designed for patients' families. Pete's unit was on one side of the huge multi-block facility and the hotel was at the other end of the facility, which meant 10- to 15-minute walks between the two points through most of the hospital's buildings. And just guess what we saw during these daily treks through what is really a beautifully designed hospital? Quilts. Lots of quilts. And lots of photography, art and other examples of needlecrafts.

            Alaskans are big on quilting. Think about it: six to eight months of indoor-only weather gives one lots of time to master a hobby. Alaskans have created some incredible quilts and some of the most wallet-tempting shops I've ever found are in the Great White North. Here are just a couple of eye-candy glimpses of The Quilted Raven in downtown Anchorage.  


            The quilts warming the walls at Providence were mostly basic and comforting. A nine-patch and a simple wall-sized log cabin graced two different entryways. But this beauty, which I had the pleasure of passing several times a day, took my breath away.

            This Broken Lone Star features Alaskan images done in fusible applique. It was machine pieced and machine quilted, probably on a longarm. The words appliqued with bias-tape refer to Providence's mission statement. The maker(s) is not noted anywhere on the quilt.

            This quilt hangs right in front of one of the main doors to the hospital. When you walk through the sliding doors, it's on a hallway just several yards ahead. To see this wonderful, calming and familiar example of q-ness warmed my heart every day, as I'm guessing it was intended to.

            In the hospital's chapel, this striking wall quilt hangs behind the altar as a testament to the faith, love and hope that fill the hospital's halls.

            And a quilt of another kind, pieced together from sculpted wood panels, hangs in another prominent hallway.


And while it's not a quilt, this needlepoint tapestry, which I thought was a quilt until I came up close to it, floored me with its workmanship and scope.




        There's something so special about a quilt, something that in my insignificant opinion transcends most other crafts. A quilt serves the practical purpose of providing warmth and protection, but as we know, that purpose doesn't only have to be served by draping a quilt over a bed. This large wall quilt, while queen-sized, provides far more warmth and comfort for the many viewers passing through Providence's halls than it ever could on a bed.--Jake Finch

Something to talk about

     An art quilt with naughty bits captured the spotlight at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show in Hampton, Virginia late last month, sparking debate about what's proper (or not) to render in bits of cloth and patchwork and hang in a public venue.

     Here's a picture of the quilt, as posted on the website of WAVY TV 10, a Portsmouth, Virginia, television station that reported on the well-known quilt show.











     Lucky for us, we at Quilter's Home know the words to this song. 

     We are very familiar, in fact, with being in the spotlight for alleged quilty sordidness. Jake Finch, one of QH's editors, wrote about the controversial side of quilting back in March 2009, with a feature that explored the issue of using quilts to express ideas or opinions that some might consider notorious or downright obscene. She dug into the whole "should it be hung at a show" question with discretion and candor.

    That feature had several well-known newspapers and radio stations across the country, and even E!'s Chelsea Lately television show host Chelsea Handler , reporting on the flap and inanely exclaiming over the incongruity of controversy and calico. For the national media, it was mostly a grab for cheap laughs, but a few regional newspapers produced respectable coverage, going so far as to interview the artists whose edgy quilts were hung (or not) in various public venues. After all, if appliqué using a penis print got your quilt yanked from a quilt exhibit in a hospital, wouldn't you think there'd be some explaining to do? (And that feature, we might add, earned QH some mention in Stitched, a soon-to-be-released documentary chronicling the lives of three competitive quilters over the course of a year. Stay tuned to this blog and the QH Facebook page for more information about it.)

     But back to last month's Mid-Atlantic Quilt Show. California quilter Kathy Nida created a quilted wall hanging depicting a homeless woman and her unborn child living in a cardboard box. The quilt is about being one paycheck away from desperation and begging for help, Kathy says, and it shows a naked woman with a fetus in her belly and her girl parts out there in front of God, the quilt judges and everybody. (Click here for WAVY TV 10's on-line coverage.)

     Are we offended by Kathy's quilt?

     Heck no. But it wouldn't even matter if we were, because for us, the value of controversy in quilted art is all about the act of envisioning, and not the actual vision.

     In our opinion, Kathy's quilt -- and the ensuing chaos during which one upset show-goer was apparently nearly escorted off the show premises for complaining loudly -- simply widens the discussion about quilts-as-art. It invites more people to look at quilting as more than just a quaint way to keep warm. It proves and reproves the validity of quilts as a medium of expression.

     Being moms, though, we do understand the views of those who feel controversial quilts should be hung publicly only with care. Television newscasts label stories as having "mature content" so viewers can choose to continue listening, or not. This may be an appropriate move to maintain a family friendly quilt venue. But in general, because quilters are responsible enough to operate a rotary cutter without a license, it's a good bet we can make our own choices about whether to look at a controversial or sexually explicit quilt.

     We like the way quilt author and teacher Norah McMeeking sums it up, in her comment on Facebook recently: "I really like to think of myself as a grown-up and don't want quilt shows to 'protect' me from life's unpleasantries. Quiltmaking today is not flower arranging, but a vibrant area of expression of all kinds. If we want quiltmaking to be taken seriously, it's time to open our minds, as well as our eyes."

     Well said, Norah.

-- Jake Finch and Melissa Thompson Maher