A Challenge

At some point about midway through retreat last weekend, everyone decided on something to challenge themselves.  Either a sewing skill they had never tried, or one they were uncomfortable with, learning a new craft or technique, or just stepping outside the box.  It’s always good to push yourself a little, right?

Stephanie chose curved piecing using her new Quick Curve Ruler (see those awesome Urban 9 Patch blocks?).  She also brought along an amazing medallion quilt for show-and-tell, and her tiny duffle bag made from Lucy’s Crab Shack scraps was the envy of everyone of us!

Amanda challenged herself to learn how to put in a zipper (taught by Terri).  She quilted her Oatmeal quilt (the entire thing) using the cursive e design, and shared her 36 patch quilt that she was making blocks for at last year’s retreat, and she made the cutest little fabric buckets (we each took one home!):
Cindy flew to Minnesota from California for retreat, along with her favorite Singer Featherweight (ahem.  it’s my favorite, too).  She has the most impressive selvage camera strap–seriously, what a great use of SCRAPS!  And her llama quilt blocks are truly awesome!  Cindy’s husband (a Minnesota native) joined her on Sunday and they were spending the rest of the week driving around Minnesota visiting family.  Cindy challenged herself to try free-motion quilting–and she liked it!

Mary’s challenge was trying crochet, she was teaching herself from a book she won on Cindy’s blog last week–studying and learning with all that activity going on around her!  She brought along an intricate piecing project that she hadn’t touched since February, that’s it in top left photo–she nearly completed the top and my photo does not do it justice!
Terri is back in school, studying graphic art and design.  She doesn’t have a lot of time to sew these days, so she took full advantage of her three days of sewing time.  She made two patchwork rugs, a scrappy pincushion, a tablecloth, table runner, a giant pincushion, a wrist rest and I’m guessing several other items I forgot about already!  I don’t recall what she challenged herself too, but no worries, there was no moss growing on her sewing machine.  ūüėČ
Rene flew in from the Pacific Northwest to join us, and brought along three beautiful show-and-tell quilts, including the peace sign quilt same made for her first grandson, who is just a few weeks old.  She worked on a shot cotton quilt, with fussy cut cowboy (and cowgirl!) fabric, and even challenged herself to go 3-D with a pincushion project after some coaxing from the rest of us.
Michelle, Rene’s little sister, joined us again this year from Georgia, and she still claims to be a new quilter, but this girl has made some serious strides!  She even shared a quilt this year (a challenge for her), the mini quilt in aquas and browns that she made for her sister’s birthday, that blew us all away–it’s beautiful!  And the fabric she bought at Grubers last year made a return trip to Minnesota and were turned into some very pretty window blocks.
I worked on my Love in a Mist Bee quilt top (it may actually be a quilt one day), cut oodles of 5″ hexagons for my niece’s quilt (thank you, Go! Cutter), paper-pieced blocks for a table runner from my scraps… and my challenge was to re-learn Adobe Illustrator, or at least enough to make diagrams for the newest quilt pattern.  I was grateful to have Terri in the room to help when I got stuck.  Diagrams drawn and complete!

  • Do you challenge yourself to try new things?
  • What sewing technique would you like to try (if nothing was holding you back)?

Quilting is my Therapy, too.

Angela has a familiar sounding blog title; I’m not sure I know a quilter that hasn’t used the phrase, or at least agrees with it! ¬†Quilting is my therapy, and quilt retreats are the best form of that therapy! ¬†Last weekend was spent with seven lovely bloggers in Waite Park, MN, at Grubers Quilt Shop Retreat Center. ¬†This is our third Summer retreat, and each year Day 1 is just like a reunion of old forever friends. ¬†I am blessed, and honored, to call them friends. ¬†Here we are just before heading home on Sunday (standing in front of Terri’s lovely patchwork):

back row, l to r:  Me, Michelle, Rene, Terri, Mary

front row, l to r:  Cindy, Amanda, Stephanie

Most of the people I know don’t understand why I enjoy quilt retreats; and I’ve never found a good way to explain it to a non-quilter. ¬†But maybe visually, with a few shots of our sewing space, I can make it a little easier to comprehend.

Sewing and quilting can be a very solitary activity, lots of quiet time for introspection, relaxation, contemplation. ¬†But at retreat–cutting, piecing and sewing is surrounded by a flurry of conversation, laughter, shared obsessions; room to spread out with our sewing machines, iPads, laptops, etc., play together and inspire each other:

I borrowed this pic from Stephanie, because it is a great shot of the space, the table, and of Rene!

In a room full of bloggers, you’re bound to see some blog reading, writing, emailing, and texting going on…

Last year, we started a practice of exchanging happies (Rene explained the origin of “happies” in this post), no one is expected to give happies, but if you want to, they are always received with open arms. ¬†Last year I was not on the ball, I did not give happies. ¬†But this year I arrived the evening before everyone else, so I used the extra time to make each of my friends a vinyl zipper bag to hold sewing and quilting notions:

And what they look like inside:

I’m trying to decide if I should write a tutorial for those bags… what do you think?

and (OH, my!) the happies I received:

  • A mini-trash-bucket made by Amanda (at the top of the photo);
  • Lucy’s Crab Shack sachets made by Stephanie, along with a copy of¬†The Quilted Fish¬†book she is featured in!
  • ¬†A zipper bag made by Terri from her own Spoonflower designed fabric!
  • A Mardi Gras themed FQ and “therapy in session” door sign from Michelle;
  • Gourmet chocolates and FQs from Rene, each representing part of where she calls home.

I brought home plenty of things I “treated” myself to in the way of fabric, as well as an autographed copy of Amanda’s book, Sunday Morning Quilts. ¬†Such talented friends–thank you all!!! ¬†We already have next year’s July retreat booked.

  • Do you go to quilt retreats? ¬†Have a favorite you return to over and over?
  • Does your family or group of friends have a tradition or practice similar to the Harper family practice of giving happies?

January 2012 Sew-In

Our group at Sew-In by artistdoris
Our group at Sew-In, a photo by artistdoris on Flickr. 
(Back l-r; Emily, Sherry, Jill M, Penny, Doris, Jill G, Linda H–front l-r; Crystal, Marny, Beth)

Friday evening and Saturday I spent with these lovely ladies at our first Des Moines Modern Quilt Guild Sew-In/Retreat.  We found a converted 1918 Church building that now serves as the Waukee Arts Center to house our two days of sewing; great lighting and lots of space:

We had a few more registered to come that couldn’t make it, but ten of us got together to haul in a few tables, ironing boards and irons, and a design wall, and just spend an evening and a day sewing, collaborating, learning from each other, and most importantly, getting to know each other better! ¬†What a talented and fun group…

Jill M made two baby quilts, start to finish and sent them off to her sister on Monday via FedEx!  TWO BABY QUILTS in ONE weekend!  

This pick Jill took on her swing set at home, borrowed from her blog

Jill G and Marny, of Modern Quilt Relish fame, made a new version of their “Bowtie Pasta with a Twist” pattern. ¬†It was fun to watch them work together and chat with them while we sewed. ¬†

Linda worked on these fabulous paper pieced Circle of Geese blocks, check out her post for her layout!

Linda gave us all (even those of us who have quilted for YEARS) a lesson on how to row piece by creating a web and then sewing your rows into columns (unbelievably easy, and yet, none of us had ever tried it!!!)

New-ish quilters Emily and Crystal were fast learners and each finished baby quilt tops using her method.

There was a lot of chain piecing, lots of rearranging on the design wall, a trip out for lunch, lots of sharing, laughing, and planning.  Overall, a relaxing and fun time!

Here is a shot of what I worked on (not quite finished here), and I’m going to write up a pattern for it, so stay tuned to this space for more on that…
Readers, you know how I love a retreat– now only 25 more days until my next sewing retreat!!!

Happy sewing,

Gifties, happies, and goodies

The gals I retreated with last weekend are a generous bunch.¬† Many brought gifts, what Michelle and Rene define as “happies”, a concept handed down from their momma.¬† And a great concept it is!¬† I brought home a lot more stuff than I left with (but, of course, there was some shopping invloved, too!)

Stephanie drove all the way from Kalamazoo, MI to sew with us, and she brought us fresh picked Michigan blueberries, a blueberry batik FQ, and Michigan Mix trail mix from the berry farm.¬† Yum!¬† I think she earned her invite back for next year’s retreat… (just kidding, Stephanie!¬† You know I love ya!)¬†

Cindy brought us patterns she has designed, and glass pendants that her husband creates (I’m wearing mine right now!), Shelly brought cowboy FQs and a cute cowboy card that says “I never met a quilter I didn’t like!”.¬† I don’t think I’ve ever met a cowboy I didn’t like, either, but I digress.¬† Rene gave us an envelope of charm squares, the cutest little quilty buttons, and a pair of quilt earrings from the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. That pendant in the middle is a necklace I bought for myself as a birthday gift, its’ made by Michigan artist Robin Goodfellow.¬† I bought a set of postcards at Ikea that truly seemed quilt inspired, and I just could not resist!¬† Toni gave me my birthday gift, which included a Gruber’s Quilt Shop gift certificate, that adorable vintage photo birthday card and the sewing pattern blank book (that girl does know what I like!)¬† And those two tea towels at the right I picked up at Target–too cute to resist!¬† If I missed anyone’s happies, I apologize…I loved every last one!

Now, for the fabric I brought home with me…

Gruber’s Quilt Shop was directly across the parking lot from where we slept and sewed… perhaps a little too convenient from the perspective of one’s pocketbook.¬† Stephanie explained the make up and the geography of the retreat center very well here.

On the way to Waite Park/St. Cloud, we hit Calico Hutch in Hayward, MN:

  • purchase 3 FQs

Ikea in Bloomington, MN:

  • purchase: set of 5 postcards, cutting table towel rack

Then in Waite Park:
Grubers (two separate visits):

  • on visit #1, scoped out what I would come back and spend my money on!
  • purchased 6 yards on visit #2 (including those awesome laminated bicycles for my new cutting table cover!!)
  • purchased 4 yards with my birthday gift certificate on visit #3

Briar Patch Gift Shop (next door to Grubers):

  • purchased Robin Goodfellow necklace for myself

Old Time Antiques (next door to retreat center):

  • purchased a vintage feedsack apron

On the way home, stopped at Quilted Treasures in Rogers, MN:

  • purchased a Art Gallery Fabrics bundle at 30% off
  • purchased the June issue of Quiltmania magazine–awesome!
  • purchased 4 more yards of “couldn’t live with out it fabric”

It’s a good thing I haven’t been buying much fabric or quilting related stuff this year!¬† I made up for it in one weekend!

Retreat Recap

I find it impossible to put into words what three days at this retreat last weekend meant to me, and did for me.¬† But, I’ll try with photos, and just a few meaningful words.

Ten woman from eight different states… a mix of backgrounds, personalities, likes and dislikes…but with one common thread–we all love to quilt!¬† The perfect recipe for a perfect weekend.¬† Three of us are celebrating July birthdays, so Amanda brought the “cake”…¬† They were very tasty!

From California, Cindy…who came this year never having met any of us in person.¬† She fit in like the perfect peg!¬† She travels with Bonnie, her trusty green Singer Featherweight, and she had us all drooling over her Sherbet Pips Flowering Snowballs!

Mary just drives down the road to meet us in St. Cloud, and she might just be my favorite grandma!  She brought several beautiful show-and-tell projects, the Birdie Stitches WIP, her Schnibbles zig-zag runner, and the schnibbles shown below.  She spent her weekend making major progress on a beautiful Single Girl Quilt:

I, too, have a Featherweight that often heads to retreat with me, but she stayed home this time and my trusty Bernina made the trip instead.¬† I finished a baby quilt top (started in October t another retreat, and then “lost” for awhile–now it is found, assembled and ready to be quilted!), and spent the majority of the weekend cutting pieces for my Candied Hexagons Quilt.

Rene joined us again this year, by way of her summer vacation in Big Sky country… She worked on a second Peace Sign quilt with some gorgeous Amy Butler prints, and showed us a lovely solid work in progress, as well as her son’s graduation quilt.

Rene also brought along her sister this year, Michelle, a brand-new blogger, who joined us all the way from Georgia.  She is so sweet and so humble and probably quilts better than most of us after just one year.  But she has a great teacher in her big sister.

Shelly shared part of her long drive from Missouri this year with Toni and I, and we were so glad to have her in the truck!¬† She’s the sweetest cowgal you’ll ever meet… and one heck of a quilter.¬† She brought along a patriotic log cabin that was what she sewed on last year, and worked on two more WIPs this year… We are very happy that she thinks we are worth her nine hour (one way!) trip!

Stephanie joined us for the first time this year…¬† Michigan Mama Pea of “peas in a pod” blog fame– ūüėČ brought along her daughter’s bed quilt, a gorgeous purple, green and pink medallion star quilt.¬† As one of her roomies, I couldn’t resist taking a picture of her sleeping under it Sunday morning!¬† I failed to take a picture of the beautiful batik quilt top she finished, or her other WIPs, but she was a busy girl!

Last year, I invited Terri to join the fun, she and I have been blog buddies since we first started blogging three years ago.¬† I’m so glad she came again this year!¬† She’s a busy full-time art student these days, so sewing time is even more precious to her.¬† She basted a quilt or two, made some mini quilts, started a beautiful maverick star medallion that apparently I never snapped a photo of, and probably more I am forgetting to mention!

Busy mom, Toni (who gave up on her blog to focus on her family) kept us all in stitches as usual, and made some great progress on a sunshine quilt she is making for her SIL.  She also kept Shelly and I laughing on our road trip to and from Grubers!

Amanda worked tirelessly to finish a quilt top for a wedding gift…¬† made of sumptious autumn colored solids.¬† She also brought her hand applique quilt that she started here last year to show us the completed top (so pretty!)

Despite all of our talking and laughing, trips across the parking lot to shop at Grubers (just one more time!), and eating, we really did get a lot of work done.¬† The lights burned into the early morning hours… and no one really slept in.¬† Of course, the time to say good-bye came all too soon, and none of us wanted to waste a second more of our precious time together by sleeping!¬† A girl can always sleep after she gets back home, right?

Until next time, ladies!  Love you all!

The Power of Ten

Ten quilters, ten sewing machines, ten suitcases, ten twin-sized beds, ten GIGANTIC hearts, ten beautiful smiles….

…and countless laughter, giggles, hugs, and one-liners.¬† It all adds to one very well spent weekend.¬†

I’ll post more next time, I just wanted to thank these ladies for being the wonderful, treasured friends that they are!