We're moving...

Just a quickie to tell you that the Quilter's Home blog, Life = Creativity, has moved to a new home. Now we're at http://www.quiltershomemag.com/blogs/.

Why are we moving to a new location? All in search of greater functionality so we can stir up more fun for you, Q-bies! It'll have a great new look, faster connections with the Quilter's Home website and be easier to share with your q-pals who might not know about us yet. (And we do soooo love to make new friends!)

C'mon! Make the move with us. After all, our blog is one of the few places where you can find out about our giveaways, contests, Friday Freebies and other quilty nonsense. Looking forward to seeing you there!

--Jake and Melissa

 

Get ready to rumble...TGIFF again!

     We believe in Fridays! It's our fave part of the week, with those luscious weekend hours stretching out ahead, some full of fun and some temptingly empty. And it's also the day we dig into our bag o' quilty fun for a Freebie to pass out.  Well, this Friday we'll be giving away a tower of Moda's Dragonfly Summer by Holly Taylor.

     Think you can come up with something cool to sew out of this?

     The name may say "summer" but we feel a transitional vibe..something that echoes the deep greens of late-summer trees and other earthy hues. Maybe a quilt to snuggle on during those last lazy days of August?

     This could be yours, Q-bies....

     ...But you're gonna have to perform, if you want a chance to win this hefty pack of fiber. We'd like to know the best excuse you've heard (or given) for a trip to the fabric store. IIt can be real or imagined...just make us laugh! (Or cry.)

     Leave your comments as a reply here or send them to our mag e-mail (sayhi@quiltershomemag.com) or post them on the Quitler's Home Facebook page. (What? You STILL haven't liked us? No problem...just go here, click "like" and you'll join the rest of us Q-bies.)

     We'll accept comments for the Friday Freebie giveaway contest until Friday noon, Pacific Daylight Time. Then we'll choose the best, announce the winner and share the winning comment with you. 

     P.S. Don't fret if you don't win the tower. Melissa has a nifty drink recipe to share that will ease the sting and still have you dreaming about lazy late-summer days. That'll be released on Friday, too, for everyone to enjoy!

Until later, Q-bies!

TGIFF

Nope, that's not a typo. Today we start the weekend fun with a Friday Freebie, a weekly gift from Quilter's Home to you.  Now, our Friday Freebies might be anything from fun quilt patterns to great recipes to cool projects...but they're all FREE, and the links will ONLY be announced here on our blog or on our Facebook page. (Another reason to go "like" us, if you haven't already joined the Q-bie clan.)

Today's Friday Freebie is Bubblicious, a simple but fun quilt pattern by Marj Moore of Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada. Marj teaches regularly throughout Canada, bringing decades of experience to her craft. (She's been quilting since she was 11!

 

Marj was the Featured Quilter at the quilt show held last week by the Moose Jaw guild. And if you've got the great good luck to be in Newfoundland in May, she'll be teaching at least three classes. And she's scheduled to present a trunk show to the Regina guild in June. Check out her blog to see more of her beautiful work and to find out what she's up to.

Click here to download your copy of Marj's Bubblicious. Can't you just see this flapping in the breeze on your porch in some sparked-up prints in springy or summery hues? Thanks, Marj! And have a great weekend, everybody!

 

Stripping with Eleanor

I got to watch Eleanor Burns strip Saturday.  

            Yep, the great Ms. Burns put on quite a show for those of us attending the Young Piecemakers Quilt Guild on Saturday, April 9, in Corona, California. We'll be featuring more about this incredible guild whose members are all kids in an upcoming issue of Quilter's Home, but I just had to share with you now some of  the fun we had at Eleanor's lecture.

            Eleanor, made famous the q-world over by her fun-filled personality and classic PBS series, Quilt in a Day, claims she is actually very shy. No sign of that on the floor of the Performing Arts Center at Centennial High School! And I left completely understanding why she's as popular as she is among our kind.

            Forced by a lack of stage lighting to mingle with the seated throngs instead of staying safe on the stage, Eleanor quickly made do with whatever she could get her hands on to display and demonstrate techniques from her latest book, 2nd Edition Radiant Star Quilts. And I do mean whatever. The young man who helped set up Eleanor's table (and whose name was lost in the cheering) gamely followed along with Eleanor's impromptu effort to turn him into an exotic dancer of the quilted kind. She persuaded him to throw out a few bumps and grinds as she tossed her 2 ½" strips at him. Of course, she also offered her own set of moves as well, and left us all laughing. Here's a glimpse of the q-dance action.


            Then, realizing she did not have a design board to demonstrate with, she then enlisted the same young man as the design board. That effort required the use of the gentleman's back, clothed in a solid red T-shirt, upon which sections of pieced fabric would cling while Eleanor explained her methods.

 

            Again, he was a great sport--God bless him!--and even when Eleanor jokingly threatened to pin the pieces to his back, he didn't flinch.  Who knew quilting could be so much fun?--Jake Finch

P.S. Don't miss the  August-September issue of Quilter's Home, where we'll share loads more about this unique guild!

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

FREE e-book on Modern Quilting

Just for you, Q-bies...a FREE e-book about Modern Quilting! Plus, three great patterns exploring the best of this fun, fast, bold style of quilt design. Just follow the link and the directions to sign up for your very own downloadable copy.

The e-book's patterns showcase some of the best, including designers Scott Hansen, Elizabeth Hartman and Modern Quilt Guild co-founder Alissa Haight Carlson. We'd love love love to see what you do with these trendy patterns! When you make your very own versions, send us a picture and we'll post it on our blog and Facebook page. Deal?

Modern Quilt Primer e-Book | Quilter's Homewww.quiltershomemag.com While traditional piecing is still all the rage with many quilters, one of the hottest quilting trends right now is modern quilting. Spurred on by easy-to-make quilt patterns, block designs and bold prints, modern quilting is set to be your new favorite type of quilting!

Ty-ing one on

 

So, have we mentioned that the life of a magazine editor is hard? There's the planning, the deadlines, the unexpected problems, the complaints and the budget (oh, the constant budget), which is constantly never enough. Yep, woe is we, we say.

            Then again, there is nothing cooler in the world then getting paid to do what we do! And that has never been so obvious as this week, when we finally get to spill what we've been doing at Quilter's Home.

            You know that hottie, Ty Pennington? The Mr. Blue Eyes of the Home Remodeling world who hosts ABC's Extreme Makeover: Home Edition?

Well, he's not just a pretty face. He's a trained graphic designer who has worked in the décor field for years. He's also pretty artsy-crafty, and he used his artistic talents to design a new fabric label for Rowan, the company that brings us Kaffe and Amy through Westminster Fibers and Heather and Valori through FreeSpirit Fabric (along with many, many other fabulous designers).

            So Ty Pennington's Impressions collection is cool, but it isn't all that newsy. Here's a few snippets (in order of appearance-- Moorish, Wave and Foliage):

The line debuted at Fall Quilt Market last October, and he's been making the rounds in some other quilt mags during the last few weeks. What IS news, however, is that we have him, but big, in the upcoming April/May 2011 issue of Quilter's Home Magazine! Yep, we roped that baby in a humongo way and we promise you'll have as much fun with him as we did.

            We grabbed the first batch of Impressions off the boat and had the phenomenal Scott Hansen of Blue Nickel Studios whip up an original quilt with Ty's threads.

  (Here's Scott, in case you don't know this very talented designer.) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott's "Ty take" just rocks! The quilt, Brick House, is bright, bold, completely hip and modern with a touch of class--pretty much like Ty. This beauty will be offered as a pattern on our website (and we're the only quilt mag to have a Ty-exclusive quilt). Look for Brick House to pop up there at the end of March, about the same time as the April-May 2011 issue hits the mailboxes and newsstands. There's much more Ty-ness inside the mag, too, but we're gonna keep some of that 4-1-1 to ourselves for now, because, hey, we're such q-teases. We'll show some mercy in the coming weeks, though. We'll dish a little about what it was like to work with The Man himself.

            Sigh....Anybody got a cigarette and a light?

 

 

Move over, Mr. OCD!

We've all got our private rituals for detoxifying from the holidays and starting the New Year with a fresh mind (and a few extra pounds). Me, well, I take stock of what I've managed to accomplish over the last 12 months, and what I haven't--but fervently wish--I had finished. And in terms of my quilting life, man, is there a lot to be said!

As an editor of Quilter's Home, a quilt magazine that's lived through many major changes over the last two years, it's a crashing understatement to say that my partner, Melissa, and I have been busy. It's also obvious to say that in doing this job, we seem to eat/sleep/breathe quilting and creativity in all forms. But it seems we don't get to do it as often as we'd like.

And that's a big fat problem. See, I'm a list maker. I've kept copious, anal-retentive-symptomatic check-offs for years. One of my favorites is my list of finished projects. (My husband, Mr. OCD, just laughs when he sees me making lists. Hey, two can work at this organization thing!)

When I was working on my first two books, my list of projects done topped two dozen or more per year for three years running, including quilts, small crafts, knitted scarves and more than I could carefully detail and rest in the assurance that yes, I was creative.  

 

It's not just a number either. The more I create, the easier the creativity muscle is to flex. My projects become more sophisticated and better put together as I design and make more. (I'm not trying to get all metaphysical or anything. Just go with me for a minute.) When I'm regularly sewing or crafting, I'm more relaxed and my sense of personal pride elevates. It's the textile equivalent of an antidepressant, with a whole lot fewer side effects!

This hasn't happened for a couple of years now. I've put one or two things on the "finished" list lately, but that's a weak victory, people.

There's an old writer's motto that says, "Writers write." Well, I'm a writer and I've certainly earned the designation over the last decade or so. But I'm also a quilter and a crafter. I make things and while my preferred method of creation comes through needle, thread and fabric, I never turn my nose up at paper, jewelry and other make-it-mine joys. It's time to reclaim my identity.

So I'm officially declaring 2011 as the year of "This Quilter Quilts."

I have at least a dozen almost-finished quilts lying around my sewing room. My goal is to finish one quilt a month for the next 12 months. Because many of these are already half quilted, and have been for (in most cases) years, how hard can this be?

Here's just a peek at what awaits the needle in my house:

I'd love to have your help. To stay honest, I'll take pics and document my progress, or lack of. But if you wouldn't mind slapping me upside the head when I seem to be slacking, or throwing the occasional "atta girl" at me, it will help. And, hey, I can return the favor. (I'm really good at that head-smack thing-comes from having a hubby who likes to get in trouble!)

Melissa and I love pouring inspiration and motivation into the pages of QH, encouraging you to find your fabric bliss. But I'm gonna claim some of that for myself this year, too, and I hope you'll join me on my renewed dedication to the needle. I'll show you mine if you show me yours, deal?

Check in next Monday for my progress on the January project: Finishing the rabbit quilt, three Easters later...--Jake Finch

 

 

Quilty encounter in Kansas

My sweet dog, Priscilla, and I took a break from Quilter's Home biz and headed east for New Year's to Wichita, Kansas, where we rang in 2011 with my family and friends. Wichita--nicknamed Doo-Dah by many residents--is my hometown, and the location of one of my favorite sculptures, The Keeper of the Plains.

This iconic 44-foot sculpture designed by Native American artist Blackbear Bosin is is even more impressive in person. But then I digress...

The Wichita holiday fun included a so-elegant luncheon where my dear friend (and foodie) Earlene Todd introduced me to one of her fellow foodies, Betty Clark. The two belong to the same gourmet club. (Now isn't that always the way....that quilters and great food go hand in hand?)

Betty's been quilting for about 20 years and knows her way around the Wichita q-scene. Some quilty Doo-Dah lore: The Prairie Quilt Guild has about 800 members, pretty evenly split between the afternoon meeting and the evening meeting. And the best shop in town is reportedly the Picket Fence Quilt Company, over on the west side.

Betty's claim to needle fame is her uber-precise hand quilting and needle-turn applique, both techniques that she teaches in local quilt-shop classes. (And she's good, people. I saw the evidence!)

Betty and her sister, Nan, had a sweet deal worked out for bjn original, their co-owned business that produced custom handmade sewn heirlooms for clients. Nan--who lived variously in Minnesota, Illinois or Texas--would create designs on her EQ, and e-mail the files to Betty so she could review them in her own EQ system. They'd consult by phone, tweaking the design until it suited. Then Nan would machine piece it and mail the top to Betty, who would work her manual magic.

The sisters also traveled widely to national quilt shows and on various personal q-quests, including one DIY mystery trip where Betty dropped hints about each destination to her sister via cleverly written daily clues.

The tandem fun stopped in 2009, when Nan died from cancer, but Betty keeps on quilting and creating, frequently making opportunity quilts for the American Cancer Society and other charities. She's branching out, learning to piece by hand and starting to create her own designs. She's even thinking about learning authentic Hawaiian appliqué. (Click here if, like Betty, you want to know more about this amazing style of quilting.)

"I cannot stop. It's an addiction," says Betty. "If I don't have anything to quilt, I'm not a pleasant person." (Says who, chica? Great meeting you, Betty!)

--Melissa Thompson Maher

 

 

Weird presents?

Presents are wonderful at any time of the year, but sometimes at Christmas, the sheer mental overload of having to come up with lots of presents causes some gift-givers to fry a few brain circuits. (Okay, we're being charitable here...)

But now that we've brought it up, what is the strangest gift you've ever received at Christmas?

Quilter's Home editor Melissa Thompson Maher can't come up with a single weird Christmas gift from her past. (Early on, she coached hubby Pat to avoid any gifts that had electrical plugs. Jewelry, of course, is conveniently free of electrical plugs.)

 Quilter's Home editor Jake Finch, however, has this to offer: "My stepmother, every year, even as an adult, would give me underwear. I never knew what to do with that, especially as an adult."

We tossed this question out to our Facebook buds and got some great answers. (What? You're not a "friend?" Go to http://www.facebook.com/quiltershomemagazine and "like" us now!)  Here's what some of our FB friends had to say:

"My husband gave me a roadside emergency kit our first Christmas. How romantic!"-Jami M.L.

"My girlfriend gave me a Calgary Stampeders cheerleaders calendar. Hmmmm...what to do with that one?!"-Kim H.

 

 

 

 

"PJs four sizes too big!!! And no, I wasn't a child anymore, so no chance of 'growing into them'! LOL."-Elisabeth F.

"A top and a ring that were both way, way too small (and I was thin at that time) from a relative who obviously bought them for somebody else."-Mickey K.W.

"My stepmother (Hmmm, starting a theme here? Evil stepmothers?) once gave me a "jewel" encrusted computer mouse. It was uncomfortable to use and I did TRY to use it. It didn't work well either...and it was not a gag gift."-Sue L.

"A Tickle-Me Elmo sewn into a hollowed-out koala bear doll. Imagine my surprise when it started laughing and shaking unexpectedly. My mom is a little nutty about Xmas surprises."-Sasha A.

"Pantyhose. Yes, pantyhose. From my father-in-law, no less. Ick."-Donna S. B.

"I got a garbage disposal from my hubby. Now isn't that better than underwear or pantyhose??"-Patty W.

"My father-in-law gave me a broom and told me I could ride it home. Very funny - NOT!"-Helen A.

"OMG, clap on, clap off. Yep, that's right, The Clapper. Thank goodness it was a Secret Santa gift and I never found out who it was from. How ever do you act surprised?"-Beverly M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, q-bies....guess this is how "re-gifting" got started. Have a happy one!

 

A novel quilt retreat

Hey, everyone! Quilter's Home columnist Meg Cox, who writes the skinny in each issue, is our guest blogger today. Here's her insider item on quilty novelist Marie Bostwick:

Marie Bostwick has quilted for a lot more years than she's been writing novels, which is one of the reasons her book series set in a cozy quilt shop has been such a hit with quilters. We know she's one of us because of the way she writes.

            Her fourth Cobbled Court Novel, Threading the Needle, is due out May 31, and still follows the adventures of Evelyn Dixon, a survivor of breast cancer (and a cheating husband) whose successful quilt shop provides enormous solace.

            Like many popular authors today, Marie connects with her readers via Facebook, Twitter, a blog and her website. But a much deeper connection was forged after some fans proposed a block swap on her website's reader forum. About 17 of her readers completed their Christmas block swap in 2009. They had so much fun that forum posters proposed a second swap using a heart block pattern Marie offers free on the site.

            When the second swap was also a smash, forum fans started clamoring for a quilt retreat. Marie, busy with deadlines, said she didn't have time to organize and run a get-together, but would attend if others did that part.

            So last November the author spent an entire weekend with 16 fervent fans at a Connecticut retreat center called Wisdom House. They came from as far away as Texas, Oklahoma and Canada, and made pillowcases for charity, learned new hand appliqué skills and worked on projects they brought along. "Mostly we were just wonderfully normal," says Marie, "Just quilters getting together, talking about our families and our quilts."

            There were some bonus expeditions most quilting retreats don't include, says Dorothy Hayes, one of the event's organizers. "We got a magical tour of Litchfield, Connecticut, which is the small town on which New Bern in the books is based. We walked down the actual Cobbled Court (which does not include a quilt shop) and ate lunch in the Grill that was the model for Grill on the Green in the book. The owner is just like Charlie! This was like fans of J.K. Rowling making a trip to Harry Potter World."

            Not only that, Marie whispered some secrets about future plot developments, and shared details of her writing process. (FYI, I predict my own future will include additional outings with my readers--if they have anything to say about it!)

            "We will definitely want to do it again next year," says Dorothy. "At the end of the retreat, all of us realized it was the beginning of a really beautiful thing."

For more on Marie and her worlds, both fictional and real, go to www.mariebostwick.com.--Meg Cox of the skinny    

 

 

 

Cookie time!

Is that the sweet smell of cookies coming from your kitchen? If so, invite us over already!

If not, well, do forgive us...we've got cookies on the brain, after interviewing designer Elizabeth Hartman, whose new book, The Practical Guide to Patchwork: New Basics for the Modern Quiltmaker (October 2010, Stash for C & T), debuted recently. In addition to being a Modern designer par excellence, she's also a cookie queen this time of year, and makes at least 100 dozen for the cookie party she and husband Chris give every year for friends and family. It's hard to pin her down on one favorite flavor of cookies, but chewy definitely wins over crispy.

  You can read all about Elizabeth on her blog, and in the upcoming February-March 2011 issue of Quilter's Home, but meanwhile, check out the innovative shortbread versions we've got in our     December-January issue, just for your tasting pleasure. 

 

 

 

 

 

And here's a favorite cookie shared by reader Darci Linkey Bodin of Diamond Bar, California.  She works for the Orange County Fire Authority and occasionally drops off cookies for the guys at Station 34 in nearby Placentia. And she says all three shifts swear these cookies are their favorites.     Thanks, Darci!

Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut Bars with Shortbread Crust

Crust

  • 1 cup flour
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) chilled, unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces

Filling

  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts

 

For Crust:  Preheat oven to 350o F.  Blend flour and sugar in food processor.  Add butter; pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal.  Transfer mixture to 8" square glass baking dish.  Press mixture onto bottom and ¾ inch up the sides of dish.  Bake until crust is golden brown on edges, about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare filling by whisking sugar, flour, eggs, butter and vanilla extract to blend in large bowl. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.

Pour filling into warm crust, smoothing surface.  Bake until filling is golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes.  Transfer dish to rack; cool completely.  Cut into squares. Doubles nicely to fill a 9 x 13 pan. Enjoy! (Thanks, Darci!)

So, we given you cookies today, but we can't let you go without one more delish treat--and this one is calorie-free! Check out this sweet babe and his custom-made iPhone app, er, "nap" quilt. (You're curious, hmm?)

Check back in later for more quilty fun, and enjoy the holidays, q-bies!

 

 

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