Thursday, September 27, 2012

Beth's Day Out

It's true, too true, when I'm home I hunker down. A week can go by with leaving the house, it would be longer if hubby and I didn't have a weekly breakfast date at the Court Street Grill. I had an appointment yesterday morning, and I had this earthshattering idea: why not visit a couple quilt shops, and pop into the yarn shops along the way. After all, I've culled out my stash, I have room for more, and I'm free to choose my direction.

My first stop was Twisted Warp & Skeins. While the shop has a very nice collection of yarns, its focus is more on spinning and weaving, just what I was looking for.

Yes, I am in pursuit of yet another hobby. I've always wanted to learn how to spin yarn, my request for Christmas this year is a spinning wheel (and a kitchen island, but that's another story). This shop offers a basic spinning class, and has a variety of wheels to test drive. I'm being good and won't sign up until November (after Quilt Market and the new book release), but I'm giddy with the idea of trying something completely new to me.

And, of course I found some yarn to bring home. The colors on the skinny skeins are off, they are more of a cold purple than the magenta shown, these will make two pairs of knock out colorwork socks (gotta love the sparkle!). The blue green of the larger skein is bang on colorwise, there were three more of these, but they are already caked up and being knit up to make a sweater for my granddaughter.

A spectacular quilt shop is just around the corner. A while back Miles of Stitches moved from a lovely but small store front, to an expansive new location just a few miles further down the road.

My jaw dropped when I stepped inside.

Fabric! Wonderful shelf after shelf of tone on tones, my favoritest kind of fabric. I was just stunned. I had no idea that this fantastic playground of color was so close to me, less than a thirty minute drive. (Or an hour and a half if you include the distraction of the yarn shop along the way.)

They also have a terrific selection of polka dots and stripes, also on my favorite list. I decided to buy fabric for the new Sneaky Piecing Tricks workshop sample I'm working on.
So, that did make the trip business related, but that just can't be helped. The yardage in the lower left is for the new workshop design. The fat quarters are for my stash, because I can!
I had intended to visit two more quilt shops, and perhaps another yarn shop, but the hubby called to tell me he was coming home from work early. He's been battling a cold and rest is what he needs most. I figured he'd like to have me around to baby him, so I cut my shopping day short. But now that I've reminded myself of how much fun stash enhancement can be, I don't think it will be long before I'm on the prowl again.
(I don't know if it's Freudian, but, as I've written this, in several places I've typed in "love" in place of the desired word. I'm taking it as a good sign.)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Quiltmaker's Block Party

Quiltmaker magazine is hosting a quilting retreat in 2013, and I'll be there as a teacher!

One of my workshops will be based on a block from Volume One of their 100 Blocks series, Lillebet's Bouquet. After the self imposed discipline of the now-tabled book projects, it was a total joy to create. All of the fabrics were pulled from my stash. Little projects require just snippets of fabric.

And I was free to embellish as my heart desired, in this case just a small amount of hand embroidery.

Trying out placement and fabric choices, keeping some, tossing others. The project is designed to cover all the basics of Hand Applique by Machine, including curves, cleavages, points, and, of course, the ever illusive perfect circles.

I can't even follow my own instructions, and it's one of the joys of the technique. I can exactly recreate the planned design, or rearrange things to my heart's delight. While it's similar to the proposed design, I wandered off a bit with the placement of the leaves and circles. Since flat flower head pins are so sharp, and I rarely make it though an entire design without some bleeding, the circles and parts of the bow are held in place by a liberal swipe of glue.
Stitching those circles require strict attention (not), so my mp3 player is never far away. I'm listening to the second book in The Century Trilogy by Ken Follet.
I'll also be teaching the Simply Roses workshop. It's also a basic Hand Applique by Machine class, but it covers some other techniques, such as super skinny stems, and personalizing our applique. (I have no idea why blogger thinks this photo should be portrait instead of landscape.
I'll have one more class, Romancing the Stitch, an improvisational free motion quilting class, great for beginners and experienced machine quilters alike.
I haven't taught in Oregon in many years, so I'm looking forward to meeting a whole lot of new friends. Portland is such a beautiful city. The enrollment registration opens today at 6pm Eastern, and man-o-man, it's at a really good price! Pop over to here to get all the scoop. Hope to see you there.

Friday, September 21, 2012

And the answer is....

In the Meadow. Applique mostly done, ready for embellishment.
I've been working away on the new book. My working title was "Hand Applique by Machine Gets Embellished". The Wash Away Sheets have opened so many new doors for embellishing. I'm finding myself drawn into hand embroidery, beading, and yes, machine embellishments as well.

Choosing threads. These are all Kreinik threads. Yummy!
It seemed only natural that I would want to work on a new book towards that goal. So, I put in a proposal to my publisher to see if they would like it. Waiting for a response from a publisher can feel like an eternity. So I just kept working on the projects and the writing.
Considering beads for his face and buttons.
As usual, I sucked all the joy out of it by giving myself a crazy deadline, totally self imposed and completely stupid. I found myself almost hoping they would turn down the proposal. Not because I didn't like the topic, but because I really need some unstructured play time. While working on a new class sample (more on that soon), I rediscovered how much I love pulling fabric from my own stash without the worry of being "commercial". I even found myself wanting to shop for fabric, something that hasn't interested me in years.
The answer came yesterday. It was a "no thank you". More like a "not quite right". At first I was terribly disappointed, after all no one likes to be rejected. But it's not the first time that others have rejected my ideas, it took seven years of badgering to find a manufacturer for the Wash Away Sheets.
That's not to say that every idea I have is a great one, not even good sometimes. But it didn't take me very long to get over my disappointment. The more I thought about it, the happier I became. I have finally gotten what I have been searching for: time to play.  Oh, I still have deadlines, workshops to prepare for, articles to write and quilts to make for magazines. I hope those never end.
No on the beads, too regularly shaped. French knots it is.
Now I have choices. The acquisition editor made suggestions as to where I should go next. She thought I should consider doing a series of seasonal quilts combining piecing and applique. Okay, that's cool, and it's pretty much what I've done most of my life. (It killed me to have to leave applique out of the samples for the piecing book about to come out.) But I already know how to do that. I've already published three project books, two of which have sold out.

My obligations to the publisher have been met, leaving me free to offer the book to another publisher, or even publish it myself. That's not to say that I haven't enjoyed working for them, not at all. It's been a terrific experience. Self publishing is just so much more lucrative, I do all the work so I get all the profit. (Also, I take all the risk that there might not be enough sales to cover the printing costs.)
In the Meadow. Finishes about 16" x 20". Machine applique, hand embroidered, machine quilted.
 So, the sky's the limit. I have time now to catch my breath and explore new avenues. I'll be checking out pricing on books done print on demand. The technology has changed so much since I last self published in 2002. Or perhaps I want to offer the designs as patterns, maybe even downloadable patterns. Whatever comes next, I'm excited to see what shakes out.

Sometimes "no" is just the right answer.


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Amherst Museum Quilt Guild

Travel is both the upside, and downside of my job. While I'm a homebody at heart, it's such a pleasure to visit new places. Since moving into our old house I've become a little bit of a history buff. (With a background in the sciences you can trust me when I say I have a lot of history yet to learn.)

Last week I had the honor of teaching for the Amherst Museum guild, for their annual seminar. It was a terrific experience, and I do hope they invite me back in a couple of years. The organizers were a terrific group of ladies, and they treated us totally top drawer.

Minutes after picking me up at the airport, my host, Mary Ellen, took me straight to Charlie the Butcher's for a Buffalo institution: the beef on weck. OMG! It was the best roast beef sandwich I've ever had. The beef was moist and tender. The roll, called kimmelweck (weck for short), is sort of like a Kaiser roll sprinkled with pretzel salt and caraway seeds. I wasn't quite as liberal with the horseradish as my native hosts, but it added just the right kick.

After a short rest in my hotel room we headed out to see the sites. It was extra fun because the other national teacher at the seminar was Anita Grossman-Solomon, who lived in the Buffalo area as a child. What a delight to see the city through her eyes.

We were headed towards the falls. I haven't been to Niagra Falls since I was a kid, and honestly didn't remember much about them, other than being cold and wet. It was an incredible thing to stand near the falls, to see the beautiful, powerful water roaring to the river bed far below. I realized in the grand scheme of things, my little lifetime is just a blip on Mother Nature's radar. These falls have been here for eons, and will continue to be here for eons more. Water to fill these falls will continue to cycle through the ecosystem, just as it always has.

Given the chance these mighty falls will wear away everything in its path. Though we may build bridges to cross and boats to explore, without constant vigilance nature will reclaim its own. I caught just the tail end of a rainbow over the American Falls.

And this was just the first afternoon in upstate New York!

The students were all wonderful! We had such a good time, didn't we ladies? This is my favorite class to teach, Hand Applique by Machine, using the Simply Roses quilt for our project.

Our hosts continued to feed us very well the rest of the week. We had a fantastic caterer for the lunches. I was worried that I'd lose a lot of ground on my diet, but somehow I still managed to lose weight. I'm thinking I need to stay on the Buffalo diet for a while longer. Thanks, ladies!

Monday, September 10, 2012

What I did on my summer vacation

Truthfully? I did practically nothing, and it was glorious. I listened to James Patterson's Women's Murder Club series while I knit sweaters for my grandchildren. I finished a couple of knitting projects for Camp Loopy, my only deadlines all summer.

I puttered around the house, sorting out drawers and cupboards, which turned out to be kind of magical. Sorting things has always helped me puzzle out a problem, and I had a big one. I didn't want to quilt any more.

It's been a while since I've been excited about creating a quilt. It had truly become a job, nothing more than a series of deadlines. I made quilts because people asked me to. I felt that all of my creativity had been drained by the mechanical process of making designs to sell patterns, magazines and books. It was a carousel I wanted desperately to get off of.

Add in that I'm at a crossroads in my life. We've made all our contributions to our childrens' college education. Three of the four have graduated, and the youngest (who is taking the scenic route to adulthood) has to decide where he's going next. In short, it means that I've met my obligations to the family: my quilting career was launched, in part, as a means to help get our boys through college.

While I adore teaching (and feel that's really where my talent lies), travel has become an ordeal. It's been a long time since the skies were friendly.

Anyway, I don't want to get all whiny here. I understand that I have one of the coolest jobs ever. It combines all my strengths: working out problems, writing, teaching. It is like this job was tailor made for me. But I felt all empty inside.

So, I did something I have rarely done before. I went on vacation. I left the studio, just walked away from ongoing projects. It was hard, really hard at first. As my friends continually remind me, I think all the time, and it was difficult to stop thinking in terms of deadlines. The "shoulds" nearly drowned me. I vowed to stay out of the studio until I really wanted to be there. It took more time than I allotted, which was just as silly as insisting a bone heal on my schedule. I truly considered that it might be time to find a new path in life.

The fog finally lifted about three days ago. I realized that the new book I am working on has NO deadlines, it hasn't even been accepted by the publisher yet. My self-imposed break neck schedule was just stupid, and was definitely sucking all the joy out of the projects. It dawned on me that I only have three more teaching trips this year, and my schedule is lighter next year. At last I felt that I had full control of where I was going, even without knowing how I would get there.

We can be so hard on ourselves, I am a merciless judge. It takes quiet time to reevaluate our direction, to consider the well-worn path, or breaking a new trail. I'm happy to finally return to my studio, with the added bonus of tidied closets.