24 June, 2012

Scrappy Sundays - The Pattern Testers

We owe a great thanks to our wonderful pattern testers for Sunday Morning Quilts. It is always a good idea to get someone else to not only read through, but actually make your pattern before you go ahead and publish it. It helps to make sure your language is translated into plain English and that you haven't assumed any steps

Amanda posted a great series of photos today from some of our testers. I want to publicly thank mine.

I've got the great luck of having a SIL who loves to quilt too. (I may or may not have instigated her addiction.) She tested for me. Prior to this she was not into improv piecing. Her and my brother actually make the quilts together and my surgeon brother enjoys the precision cutting. But she went to town with the slab concept. First she made her version of The Missing U - Mardi Gras colours and a bit smaller to make it appropriately sized for a kid.

Then she made some extra slabs and turned them into this awesome quilt.

Barb is another friend who isn't quite used to the improv nature of piecing a slab, but she embraced the challenge to make Leaves and Vine in these golden colours. Her handwork is incredible so I would say her applique is better than mine!

Other pattern testers included Lesly, Wanda, Jen, and my friend Meredith. I don't have photos of their quilts to share, but I'll update you if I do.

Thank-you to all our pattern testers. We couldn't have done it without you!

It really is a thrill to see other people make your patterns. At the same we love seeing people take the pattern as merely a starting point where they jump off and do their own thing. We provide some suggestions in the book on how to make it yours, but I bet you can do some great things even without our tips. Don't forget to share your stuff in the Sunday Morning Quilts Flickr group.

17 June, 2012

Scrappy Sundays - Father's Day Edition

We don't live in a vacuum. We don't create in a vacuum. No, we are surrounded by school schedules, sports, travelling partners, family drama, and that pesky housework. When it came to writing Sunday Morning Quilts it was no different.

My Dad was diagnosed with lung cancer in March 2008. There were a few years of treatment and, ironically, better health as he quit smoking and got his blood pressure under control. But the winter of 2010/2011 showed us that the cancer was taking over and his decline was quick. This coincided with the first winter I was home full time and was writing the book.

Amanda and I spent a week together in March, hammering out the final text and taking photos. I tried not to think about my family, but things were obviously bad with my Dad. I waffled between guilt for being away to work on my pet project and elation at doing so. I talked to my Mom and my husband about the reality of the situation. I talked to Amanda about our Dads.

It seemed like the writing and my Dad's health were in direct contrast. One giving me so much happiness and excitement, the other giving me pause, sadness, and challenge. Over a year later I can't think of these two things exclusively.

When I came back from Amanda's we more or less moved to be with my family. My Dad was admitted to a Palliative unit. My days became a combination of hospital visits, keeping the girls busy, and finding the time to finish the manuscript. I sat in the old, old recliner in my Dad's home office with a cable snaking across the room making sure all the Us were removed from colour and favourite and our images were numbered properly.

I'm not sure my Dad ever really understood the book writing process, or even why I was doing it. He was the kind of man who expected 100% every single time you did something - both in effort and result. He never said, but I'm sure there was a lot of head shaking on his part when after going to university and grad school I quit my job to be home with my kids and write. Then again, he was an old fashioned Eastern European, maybe he thought that's where I should be? But he never said anything negative to me about it. Never shot me down. This, if you knew my father, was shocking.

When he finally let us tell people he was sick and dying he was inundated with visitors. Old friends and colleagues flocked to the hospital with sweet treats and old stories. One of us kids was usually there and we were inevitably introduced to a crusty plumber or painter who remembered us as kids or unruly teenagers. My Dad would show off his grandkids, or complain about their behaviour. And when it came to me he always mentioned that I was writing a book. He might laugh that it was about quilting, but he always brought it up.

This is as close as he would get to saying he was proud of me.

I didn't need my Dad to say these words, nor did I need him to say anything else. Actions always spoke louder than words with him. Every day when I arrived at the hospital my Dad would ask me how the book was going. Was I done yet? The day that I finished everything I was quite proud to finally answer in the positive.

We had only a few weeks left after I hit send. The book was submitted on April 1, he died April 12. He never saw the final product, never slept under one of the quilts. 

Writing a book, or any other creative process really, happens while life happens. But when we make the commitment to that process we often have to work through difficult times. It isn't all sunshiny studios, cups of tea, and quiet afternoons. It's hard to get up early, working at odd hours and in snippets to bang out the work. It might have been easier to put the project aside and devote everything to my family. But that would have mean letting down Amanda, myself, and violating my contract. I know that people would have understood, but I was committed to my commitment. That was something my Dad would and could support.

The book is out there now and doing well. When it came to the book I think my Dad would have kept it on the bar at home, next to his worn out deck of cards so he could show it to a buddy that came over for a drink. He might have flipped through it in between TV shows. Maybe he would have asked me how long it took to make a certain quilt. He may not have understood my goals or the world of quilts, but I'm pretty sure he would have been proud. 

Working on Sunday Morning Quilts was indeed work, but it was a respite from what was going on in my life. Sometimes the daily activities of life are evident in the final product, sometimes they are not. My father and my family life are not in this book, but they are still a part of it. The stories thread together in my existence, in the story of my family.

Don't forget to check out Amanda Jean's post about the men in her life.

15 June, 2012

Slow Down

Stop it! Stop growing so fast!

I say that in my head very frequently, whether I'm looking at my chunky monkey baby, Death Wish Arkison trying yet something new and scary, or the depth of my conversations with The Monster. I wish they would stay teeny and innocent and full of natural curiosity. And not talk back to me.

The Monster turned six this week and Death Wish was four last month. I would be lying if I didn't admit I was thankful that Nikolai keeps me grounded in babyness.

Case in point. The Monster lost her first tooth last week. It was wiggly, oh so wiggly. We were chilling out watching Swamp People when she became very insistent that Daddy pull her tooth. Oddly, she frowned upon a solid punch to knock it out. Instead, we got some embroidery floss. Wrapping it and a quick tug and we had a tooth in hand.

That, of course, meant we need a safe spot for the tooth to rest until the Tooth Fairy showed up. A couple of carefully chosen (Tiger inspired) fabrics, cut into 3'' squares, sewn back to back with a little Red Light Green Light. She was clear that there be no closure of any kind - to make it easier for The Tooth Fairy.

What about making it easy for Mama as she grows up too fast?

12 June, 2012

Quilter-Artist Spectrum

Do you consider yourself a quilter or an artist or both? Or maybe somewhere in between?

The above image was taken from the Fabricate exhibit, held recently at the DaDe Gallery here in Calgary.  It is a quilt by Luke Haynes.

If you aren't familiar with Luke Haynes he a self described architect turned quilter. I adore his work. I don't think I'll ever make a portrait quilt myself, but his works are stunning. STUNNING. I jumped at the chance to see some of his work locally.

While I was pouring over the quilt and its details it got me to thinking about how I see myself as a quilter. Am I just a quilter? Is that a bad thing, to use the word just? Do I even come close to considering myself an artist? And frankly, what's the difference?

What is the difference?

I haven't a clue how to make any distinctions.

... showing quilts versus using quilts?
... heavy versus soft?
... designing for the wall versus the bed?
... making something pretty versus making a statement?
... exploring colour versus exploring themes?

In my opinion, I don't think there is a perfect or right answer. Maybe there is a spectrum and we all fall at different places on it at different times?

I do design my own work, I love to explore colour and inspiration, and sometimes I want my quilts to be seen and not necessarily always cuddled. For the most part though I do want my quilts to be used and used well, but it is a goal to hang in a gallery too. I sometimes design for up close and texture not the view from far away. I love to write and write about quilts. So, unlike my left leaning social and political views I think I maybe am somewhere in the middle of the spectrum.

What about you? Do you think there is a difference? How would you define it? How do you identify yourself?

10 June, 2012

Scrappy Sundays!

Welcome to Scrappy Sundays! This is a new series that Amanda Jean and I are going to be writing over the next several weeks. In this series we thought it would be fun to share some behind the scenes of writing the book, tell stories about some of the quilts and share alternate ideas that we've sewn up. We also plan to highlight the work that our awesome pattern testers did and more. 

Join us on Sunday morning for these posts. At the end we will have a link up party where you can share your work and give your scrappy testimonials. We think it will be a lot of fun! Of course there will be prizes, too.

We wanted to let you know that we've started a Flickr group where you can share photos of your quilts or projects that you made based on the book Sunday Morning Quilts. We want to see what you are making..and we want to see your scraps! Perhaps a pile of unsorted scraps to start with, then show off your organizational progress. We love seeing scraps in action!
We'd also love to hear from you. What do you want to know about us, about writing the book, about our scrap situation? If we can answer it in one of these posts we will. We're looking forward to hearing from you.

04 June, 2012

Edmonton Trunk Show and Signing

There is a suitcase full of quilts in my living room bursting at the seams. It contains my quilts from Sunday Morning Quilts, and then some. All of them are destined for travel this week.

Join me for a trunk show and signing if you are in the Edmonton area. You can get a closer look at the quilts, hear some of the back stories behind their construction and the book, and get your book signed. If you don't have a book yet there will be some for sale. Yes, she's managed to hang on to some copies for this event.

Earthly Goods Quilting
5848-111th Street
Edmonton, Alberta

June 7, 2012
6:30-8:00 pm

I hope to see you there!