Monday, December 31, 2012

Looking ahead

After years and years (and years) of making the same resolutions every January, (lose weight, produce more, become perfect, give up perfectionism), it became clear that there was no resolve in those resolutions. In fact, I was pretty much doomed to failure from the moment my feet touched the floor, discovering a huge dust bunny, therefore sucking at housework, and blowing the whole perfection thing in the first waking moments of the new year.

Since I haven't yet kicked the whole perfectionist thing, looking back always begins with the disappointments and failures. I know that we all have things that we wished we'd done better on, but I feel that way about everything. Everything. Who doesn't relish an opportunity to revisit one's shortcomings? This time of year generally makes me a little crazy (er).

Instead of a resolution this year, I am going to set a couple of goals. They are just kind of nebulous, impossible to prove, and therefore fail, sort of goals.

#1: Be kind to myself. I am my own worse critic, and I can be vicious. I say things to myself that I would never even consider saying to another person. I've been working on this for a while, and I'm making progress (see what I did there?), but I'm renewing this goal for this year. (See, that? I did it again! I am renewing my subscription to this goal, I didn't fail!)

#2:  Be a little selfish. This will be a hard one. I have been driven by my responsibilities since I was a little kid. Being the oldest of six girls meant my care taking days started early. I have never been responsible for just myself. Now that the boys are launched, and I'm over the empty nest, it's time for a little self indulgence. It's mostly goofy stuff, like buying premium ice cream because it tastes better, or a pair of shoes just because they're cute.

#3: Give myself permission to play. Another toughie. What I really should say is give myself permission to play without guilt. This goal is closely linked with #2. Playing feels frivolous and wasteful, but I know that it is necessary for creative growth. Oh, wait, I think I just turned it around into a work related thing, which is clearly not play. Yep, I think it may even take a whole year to understand what play is.

I always admire folks who can make a resolution, and keep it. Does it work for you? Is there something magical about the turning of the calendar that makes the promises easier to keep? I'd love to hear about your plans/goals/resolutions for this year. Meanwhile, I think I'll go vacuum my bedroom, the dust bunnies are having a party in there.

Friday, December 14, 2012

A quandry

One of the high points of my trip to Houston and Quilt Festival this year was the opportunity to take a two day class with Elly Sienkiewicz, the grande dame of applique. I have admired her work for so long, and looked forward to spending some time with her.

She is a delightful teacher, gentle, calm and quiet. She clearly loves what she does. Our class project was quite ambitious, a clipper ship with a wreath of flowers. I went into the class with every intention of following Elly's processes, how else could I learn something new? While Elly did have some strategies that were new to me (especially the embellishment with the oil pastels), it didn't take long for me to realize that the basic technique was pretty much same old, same old. Luckily Elly isn't one of those hideous "my way only" teachers. On the contrary, Elly frequently repeated that each of us could feel free to use the technique that has given us the best success. Score!

Here is my class project so far. Since the pattern came directly from one of her books, I printed out the pattern onto Wash Away Applique Sheets before class. The masts are needle turned by hand. (See, I can do it!) It reminded me that tiny needles and even tinier stitches aren't the fun part for me. I quietly slipped over into glue basting and made terrific progress.
I learned some great things with the project. Elly showed us how to use Craypas (oil pastels) to add shading to our applique pieces. I love this! I've used it on the sails, and a couple of the roses. I've learned that I can glue baste teeny tiny pieces. I've fallen into creating designs that are simple and large, to make the project more accessible for beginners. Sort of instant gratification stuff. Now I am completely intrigued by getting small. Those stripes on the flag are about an eighth of an inch wide, and glue basted individually!
So, here's my quandary: do I finish this project? Even though I've made a space for it, I have added only two small roses, the rest was completed during class. I've always wanted to do a Baltimore Album style project, so here it is. I have been following the pattern pretty faithfully, and that has been a challenge for me. It's not yet stitched to the background (well, except for the masts), so I can move it to a new background, or recenter it, or whatever.
I tell my students if they have learned everything they wanted to learn from the project then feel free to toss it. Of course, if they are loving it, then have at! We just don't need anymore obligation stuff in our hobbies.
This is a side project from a super secret project that needs to be done in a month. I fear if I put it away it will become a permanent UFO. Help me here! Do I continue to work on it, or call it good and toss it away?

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The beginning of Christmas

Every year, ever since the boys were little, we've kicked off our Christmas celebrations by putting up the tree on the first Sunday of Advent.
When Kent and I were first married, we were totally broke college students. When our first Christmas rolled around, we had nothing, no lights, or decorations. I realized then what made a Christmas tree special were all the memories attached to the ornaments. We managed to put together a small tree, with a single strand of lights (remember those big, hot bulbs?), garland made from computer punch cards (now you know how really old I am), and little birds woven out of ribbon.
As the boys came along, I wanted to build a Christmas legacy for them to take to their grown up homes. Each year the family went ornament shopping, each boy picking out an ornament that had meaning to them.
Over the years they picked some pretty goofy stuff, furry icicles, smiley faces, ice cube snowmen with ice augers through their heads. It was very interesting to watch as their tastes changed and they began to look more long term at their collections.

Of course, we have continued the tradition with the grand kids. We are lucky to have Bronners nearby, which is only the largest Christmas store in the world. It is an amazing swirl of lights, and colors, and sounds all year long.
They have the very best Santa, ever. I do believe that he is the real Santa, all others being this fellow's intrepid helpers. He is so kind and gentle that he charms even the shyest child. That said, Nicole, being a two year old and tired, wanted nothing to do with Santa.
Christmas 2012: (clockwise) Nicole (2 1/2  years old), Amanda, Nathan, Santa and Alex (5 1/2).
Joy, joy, joy!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gracie takes me for a walk

It's been six weeks since Gracie came to live with us. She is just a couple of days shy of three months old. She makes me laugh, a lot. She's making great progress on housebreaking, but she still hasn't figured out a way to tell us when she needs to go out. Or, perhaps, we haven't figured out when she's telling us she needs to go out.

I've been outside more in the last six weeks than I was all last summer. (It was hot, super hot, and I mostly hid out in the ac.) And, surprise, surprise, it is good for me, just like the doctors have been telling me.

We have this land, not quite fifteen acres, that has lain fallow for decades. From the very first summer we moved here, Kent has cut walking paths in the field. It's lovely to watch the seasons change, savor the wildflower blooms, enjoy the rustle of the tall grasses. But I'm a big scaredy chicken, there are snakes in the field. Okay, so they are just garter snakes, and mostly no longer than my forearm, they are snakes. I'm with Indiana Jones, anything but snakes!
But now that I have Gracie, the wonder dog, (and the snakes are all hibernating), we have been enjoying our daily walks through the field.
These trees weren't even here when we moved in, almost twenty years ago. Slowly what used to be a fallow field is becoming, once again, a forest.  While Gracie is busy playing food/not food, I am also busy enjoying the sunshine, and studying the way shadows give dimension to a monochromatic landscape.
Gracie has changed my life. She makes me so happy, even when she is being her destructive puppy self. But how on earth do you look at that face and stay angry for long? Sure, some days I suffer from puppy fatigue, but she's learning so fast, and wants to please. We'll get there, Gracie, we'll get there together.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

On the Radio!

To all of Pat's faithful listeners who have come to visit, welcome!

For my regular visitors, tune in (click HERE) at 4 PM Eastern time, on 11-19-12, to hear the broadcast live. It will be archived, and available for listening anytime.

Pat and I met very early in our careers. We started out just about the same time. I have enjoyed her sense of humor, talent and drive from the very start.

It's been fun to watch as we've each developed our styles and focus, criss-crossing paths every few markets.

Honestly, I have no idea how Pat gets it all done, but she does, and with great verve!

For those new to me, hi!

I'm the oldest of six girls, the mother of four boys and grandmother to two, a boy and a girl. And I'm a new puppy mom. But that's a story for another time.

I married my high school sweetheart as a sophomore in college, one year after I finished hand piecing and hand quilting my first quilt. My theory at the time was "the bigger the stitch, the sooner I'm done." I understand now that poor quilt was basted together.

It's always been my goal (even since I was a little kid), to do things as efficiently and effectively as possible. Perhaps my love of science pointed me that way. Sneaky Piecing is a compilation of all the tricks, tips and techniques I've discovered in my loooong, almost 40 years, (I started prenatally), quilting career.

For a nice little taste of some of my favorite Sneaky Piecing tricks, I've created a pattern for you to download. The block, called Christmas Star, was designed to illustrate more than a dozen different Sneaky Piecing tips. Yeah, this one block. (Imagine what you'll find in the book!)

To download the pattern, click HERE.

The truth is, I'm a teacher at heart. Or perhaps it would be better to say that I'm a pathologically curious student. Finding out how things are made is a joy for me, and then to teach it makes everything complete.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Quilt Market Swag

One of the cool things about Quilt Market is all the goodies to be found. Companies anxious to debut new products often give out free samples. How do you say no to that?

And then there's Sample Spree. Oh yikes! (These fat quarters are just part of a huge bundle of Jinny Beyer's newest fabric collection. Yummy!) The spree opens the evening before the official start to market. Originally the idea was to offer samples, already made up, for purchase, to be used in a quilt shop to help sell the new product. Over time it became a way for shop employees to decorate their homes. And now it is an all out free-for-all with companies (especially fabric companies) selling individual items at wholesale (or less!) prices. Attendees line up more than an hour in advance to be the first folks through the door. Being shopping impaired to begin with, I like to show up about an hour into the event and just breeze through the doors. Hey, what's left is way more than I should be buying anyway.

This is the delightfully huge button we are given to wear while at Market, to advertise the newest issue. (Congratulations to Kathy H. She'll be receiving the newest issue! Thanks for all your terrific comments. We are going to be busy quilters this holiday season!) The fabric shown here is Mary Engelbreight's newest line. It's a-dorable. Lots of happy colors.

There are the free magazines to pick up. I've only read through a couple, the ones geared to the "modern" quilter. While well done, they are not for me. First of all they made me feel ancient (which I am at least ten years away from!), most definitely geared to the younger crowd. And, I have to say, the content was so simplistic (even childish) that I felt myself getting stupider by the minute. Still, I'm so happy to see young folks taking up the rotary cutting and making quilts. (Uh, did that last comment just confirm that I am ancient?)

My last great find came on my last shopping day, the first full day of Festival. These are pearl cotton from Lizbeth. They are gorgeous! The packaging says that they are for crochet and tatting, but you'd better bet I'm going to try working with them as both bobbin and hand embroidery thread. And the cool bubble thing? It has a little spindle inside, and a hole in the top, a perfect little carry case to keep the thread clean and ready for travel. I think it might be very handy for filling bobbins from balls of thread.
I have no intention of talking about the fabric that may be finding its way here. Suffice it to say that I've found a couple of new fabric manufacturers with terrific collections who are willing to play with me. I didn't go crazy in my requests, but I'm already worried about where I will put it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

100 Blocks Blog Tour!

Welcome to Applewood Farm. It's so nice to see so many new faces here! It's my turn today to crow about having a block in Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks series. (Check in with Quiltmaker to see all the cool designers taking part in this year's blog tour.)

This is my fourth time to have a block included, and it's still an ego rush to be part of the magazine. My name is on the cover this time, too. Double cool.

I'm amazed at the originality with these blocks. Some are lovely, some are graphic, some are silly, and others are just plain cool. Every issue contains interesting and appealing blocks, which tells me that quilters still have lots to say!

This time it's Little Red Posies from me. I love the polka dots, they are just so happy. For applique artists, perfect circles are just plain showing off. But with three simple ingredients, perfect circles are easy to achieve.

Gather up a glue stick, a circle punch (it pays to haunt scrapbooking stores), and a sheet of Wash Away Applique Paper. Well, and some fabric would come in handy about now. The circle punches come in all sorts of sizes from teeny-tiny to honkin' big. I find that I use the 1/2, 3/4 and 1 inch sizes the most frequently. The Wash Away paper punches most cleanly through two layers at a time.

Press the shiny side of the Wash Away paper to the wrong side of the fabric. The smaller the circle, the narrower the seam allowance needs to be. A heaping eighth inch is all we need for half inch circles, a scant quarter inch will make three-quarter inch circles a snap.  Use the glue stick to turn the seam allowance, voila! perfect circles!
Here are just a couple of layout suggestions for our Little Red Posies. Two blocks together make a darling table runner or wall hanging.
I totally am going to make this. Cut the green border strips at 2 1/2", we can get all four borders out of two strips, cutting a 12 1/2" segment and a 28 1/2" segment from each strip. I cut my bindings at 1 3/4" to 2" wide, we'll need two to three strips for the bindings. Cut the bias stem strips just a couple of inches longer to span from one block to the next to complete the inner circle. Shazam!
Isn't this darling? Just four blocks, rotated around the center and it's a nifty little wall hanging or maybe a doll quilt.
This is where I tell you to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of the latest issue of Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks.  Since I'm feeling all Christmasy, how about you share your holiday sewing plans?

Tuesday, November 6, 2012


It's finally After Market. All of the weeks of preparation have paid off, and I was successful with my Schoolhouse and Take & Teach events. Well, at least all of the folks to spoke to me afterward told me I did a great job. If someone was unhappy they chose not to share that with me. Works for me!

Market is a funny thing. In a lot of ways it is all business, all the time. There are formal times to "see and be seen", in lectures and workshops. And, then again, I've had some of my best opportunities presented at a chance meeting over breakfast. You just never know who you might be sitting with.

I'm finally learning that, while good things happen when I'm being a serious, grownup businesswoman, some of my best opportunities have popped up when I was totally off, and just being my silly self.

When I went to my first quilt market (in 1997), I was a shy housewife quilter, with a "line" of six patterns. I was totally star struck. All around me I saw the television quilting stars just walking around like regular people! Now I can call some of them good friends. (But standing between Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims gives me the giggles!)

To promote the new book, I was scheduled for two book signings. The one at market was for free copies. The line was pretty long when I showed up, great ego boost for sure. But the moment the numbers for the freebies were distributed, most of the folks disappeared, a much needed humbling experience. Market is full of highs, when folks actually get star struck with me (who knew?). And then there are the reality checks, when you realize that all the folks lined up for your demo are actually waiting for the next free book signing. Sigh.
One of the many highs of this trip happened at Festival, the retail show that follows market. At a book signing where people actually purchase the book (where the real honor lies), I was seated next to Sandra Dallas! Yes, that Sandra Dallas. For someone who keeps saying she wants to write a grown up book (no pictures), I was star struck once again. We didn't have much time to chat, which was sort of a good thing, since we were busy signing (and selling) books. But Sandra was lovely, and interesting, and gracious. Having learned how much fun it can be to have folks fawn all over you, I did everything but kiss her ring. (And I would have, if she had offered her hand. Better yet, I bought her two newest books and she signed them!)
This market was pretty fantastic for me. I may have several new opportunities to work with magazines. A couple of teaching venues may come knocking. Relationships with my favorite manufacturers were cemented. All that good business, and, it was like old home week. Celebrating with friends who are doing well, commiserating with some who are struggling. And generally laughing my face off for seven days.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Getting ready for the big show

For those of us in the quilt industry, Fall Market is sort of our Mecca. Each fall we make our pilgrimage to hawk our wares. Market is the time to promote new books, see the newest fabric lines, and to learn.

Since I often have something to sell, I'm usually on the teaching end of things. This market I'm doing a Take & Teach session on the 28th. This one block will illustrate at least seven Sneaky Piecing Tricks, more if time will allow. It's a short class, so to get as much teaching time in, I did most of the cutting.

The thing about Take & Teach is that, aside from basic tools, the student brings nothing. It's my job to get the stuff together. You all know how much I like organizing things (I just spent a small fortune on Martha Stewart stuff from Staples, but that's another story). So, after the parts were all chopped and stacked, they were stuffed into little baggies.
When I began the project, I thought it would take tons of time. But you know, when I have a great book on the mp3 player (Micheal Connely's The Drop), it was done in no time at all.
The final kits, including some goodies, are all pretty and ready to roll. My teaching tools are also in the box, and the hand outs for Schoolhouse (a raucous day of running from demo to demo to see the hot new stuff before the show floor even opens) are neatly packed in as well. I would have to say that zip top bags are my favorite organizing tool ever.
I have a demo to make the step outs for, and get stuff packed for the Festival classes I'm taking. Taking! I'm very much looking forward to being a student for a change.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meet Gracie

This is Gracie. She is three quarters Australian Shepherd and one quarter mystery mutt. And she'll be coming to live with us on Saturday. Yes, I have completely lost my mind.
 We have been kicking around the idea of getting a dog for quite a while. Now that the kids are mostly gone, I'm kind of lonely in this big old barn of a house. A dog would be great companionship, and would also help me feel safe when Kent has to travel.We were looking for an older dog, maybe one to three years old and already house trained, but we just couldn't find any that fit just right for us.
Aussies are working dogs, used for herding sheep and cattle. They are actually an American breed, possibly Spanish in origin, but passing through Australia before arriving in America's western cattle country. Gracie will keep me busy, for sure, with training and exercise. I hope someday she will become a therapy dog, giving comfort to seniors and kids alike.
Although we looked at purebred puppies, I'm glad that Gracie is part mutt. I'm looking for a doggie friend, not a show dog. She has gentle eyes, and beautiful coloring. She chose me. When the puppies were freed from their kennel, she came straight to me and snuggled between my shoes. Remind me of how adorable she is when I'm haggard from lack of sleep. Then again, I have always loved having babies, this one is just furry. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Knitting interlude

Knitting is what I do so I know I'm not working. I needed a new hobby when my quilting pastime became my job. I tried beading, I tried scrapbooking (which ended quickly, once the fun of purchasing basic supplies was over), but needle and thread keeps calling me back.

I really enjoyed Camp Loopy this summer, which has reinforced my feeling that I really need to find local friends. Quilting friends never seem to work out. I'm a "herder" at heart, and I just can't help myself when a teaching opportunity arises. I need to find a group that will smile affectionately and say to themselves, "that Beth, she just loves to share". With knitters, I can just be one of the gang. Totally without credentials.

This shawl, Adhara, from Tanis Fiber Arts, was my third (and last) Camp Loopy Project. I was not happy with how it was knitting up, but once it was blocked I was thrilled with the outcome. My daughter-in-law, Amanda, received this for her August birthday. I will knit this again, with two yarns with less contrast and I think it will be spectacular.
With the leftover yarn, I knit a pair of fingerless mitts for her. To be honest, I think she was more thrilled with the mitts than the shawl. At least I got it half right! (And she loves purple, so maybe two thirds.)
Next I set out to knit sweaters for my grandchildren. About time, don't you think? Nicole's fit her perfectly, just a little big so she can wear it all winter. Alex's, however, turned out to be way too big, and nightmarishly long. What was I thinking? Lesson learned? Just because I still have yarn doesn't mean I have to keep on knitting. I will be tinking (to tink is to knit backwards, how cute is that? Don't you wish tliuqing would work for us?), about four inches off the length. And then maybe making a hat. The pattern is the Tomboy Cardigan. It is knit from the top down, using a new shoulder technique called the contiguous sleeve method, which results in the look of a set in sleeve without all the sewing. I do hope Susie is working on a book, because I want to knit every sweater this way.
And finally, this shawl:
It's Pleiades, and it turned out to be the neverending shawl. The pattern suggested that I weigh the yarn and stop increasing when I arrived at the halfway point of the skein. Yes, it efficiently used up most of the yarn, but I think perhaps I have finally learned that knitting to the end of the skein is not always best for the project, or the wearer.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

They're Here!

C&T truly knows how to make their authors feel special. This amazingly gorgeous mum plant arrived on the same day as my advance copy of my Sneaky Piecing book. I love that it's a plant (rather than cut flowers), and a perennial at that. When it's run its course as a house plant I plan to break it into smaller plants and add them to my gardens. For years to come they will serve as a reminder of the day my book became real.

And then, a couple of days later, the box filled with dozens of copies of my book arrived! Talk about making it real! I'm hoping this will just be the first of many boxes of these books to pass through my doors.
There's a post on C&T's blog about how the book came to be here. There are also pictures of each of the quilts in the book. To get your own copy, you can ask for it at your local quilt shop, or you can order an autographed copy here.

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.