The Craft Sessions – Understory

October 14, 2017

There is no skirting around the issue here- it has been a VERY long time since I posted on this blog! I’ve also been busy making, designing, sewing, embroidering, raising kids, and, oh yes, busy with the day job – basically, living a life like many of you.

What’s in the works: a new website and new classes, the later of which I am calling The Craft Sessions. They are about learning new skills and techniques, making a particular project, but just as important, about connecting with others in the community- Because for centuries, women especially have come together to share their skills, exchange stories, forge friendships, and walk away a bit more refreshed and inspired than when they walked through the door.

So, join me and others at The TreeHouse, a beautiful new creative space (with great lighting!) in Downers Gove, Illinois, for the first Craft Sessions’ class – Understory, an embroidery class suitable for beginners and experienced stitchers.

In the class, here’s what we will learn:

  • How to prepare and mark your fabric – including using a running stitch to mark rule lines
  • Overview of the materials we will be working with – linen, thread, etc.
  • Design building blocks – a word about color and negative space as it relates to this project; this is especially important because the flowers themselves are stitched freehand (no markings to follow)
  • Stitches – including seed stitch, running stitch, and backstitches
  • Ideas for adding a few more details to make your project even more unique

Materials and supplies:

The Understory kit is included with the price of the class. It includes fabric, thread, and needles. Hoops will be available to purchase if you need one. You are welcome to borrow a hoop to use during the class.

Other supplies for you to bring to class –  an embroidery hoop if you have one; a favorite pair of scissors; your eyeglasses; and a notepad/pen for taking notes.


The TreeHouse in Downers Grove, Illinois, about 20 miles west of Chicago. Please note: This class in on the 2nd floor, which is accessible only via stairs. If you are interested in taking the class but stairs are an issue please email me at – I will keep you posted as to when the class is scheduled in a more accessible space. Parking is available on the street.

Class Dates:

This one session, two-hour class is being offered twice in the next few weeks:

  • Wednesday, October 18 – 9:30 am – 11:30 am – Registration closes at 6 am on October 18th.
  • Wednesday, November 1 – 9:30 – 11:30 am – Registration closes at 6 am on November 1st.

To register, click here.

 Any questions – email me at





Modern Flower Box

May 3, 2015

Modern Flower Box

Please join me for A Journey in Quiltmaking, a 6-week class that will meet on Tuesdays from 1 to 3 pm, beginning May 12th and running through June 16th.

The project, “Modern Flower Box,” measures 33.5″ x 14″ and can be used as a table runner or wall hanging. We will learn the basics of quilting making, start to finish; discuss design basics; and learn to flex our creative muscles through several exercises.

The pattern will be provided at the first class; you are welcome to use your own fabrics, or purchase a kit on the first day of class.

To register, please visit  See you there!

Come In From the Cold for a Journey in Quiltmaking

December 7, 2014

Modern Flower Box

If you are a beginning quilter or are looking to reconnect with your quilting past, I hope you will join me for A Journey in Quilt Making, a 6-week class I will be teaching at the beautiful historic Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook, Illinois beginning January 6th.

We start at the beginning covering the basics of quilt making but each 2-hour session will also include creative exercises to boost your quilt making skills and expand your creativity.

We will make “Modern Flower Box,” a quilt I designed specifically for this class with the intention that I wanted students to learn how to make a quilt from start to finish – it’s my hope that everyone will walk out of the last class holding their own finished “Modern Flower Box!”

Measuring approximately 33.5″ x 14″ when finished, it is suitable to use as a table runner or wall hanging. The pattern will be provided at the first class; you are welcome to use your own fabrics, or purchase a kit using the fabrics in the sample on the first day of class.

To register for the class, please visit See you there!

Fresh Start Day Retreat

August 29, 2014

Click on image to enlarge.

It has been awhile since my last post, but I have been busy – sending my oldest off to college, making quilts for clients, helping consulting clients take their businesses to the next level, and exploring new directions to combine my quilting background with my consulting work.

Here is one of the fruits of my labors that I am excited to announce: On September 12, 2014, Margret-Anne Cummings – a professional life coach, certified yoga instructor, and certified Creative Insight instructor – and I will be co-leaders of the Fresh Start Day Retreat on the beautiful grounds of the St. Francis Woods & Retreat Center (the Portiuncula Center) in Frankfort, Illinois.

As anyone who makes knows, at times we can get so lost in the flow of our work that hours go by before we realize how consumed we have been. At other times, it can be hard to tap into that flow – especially with all of the activities of summer. And that is the whole idea behind this retreat, to refocus and reconnect. While we won’t be making quilts (that’s another project in the works for January), we will be doing creative exercises aimed at getting your creativity flowing.

Please join us for an inspiring day in a beautiful setting!

For additional details and to register, click here.

Registration and early registration pricing has been extended till Monday, September 8th, at 2 pm!





Chocolate Brigadeiros to Share on Valentine’s Day

February 12, 2014

Chocolate Brigadeiros

Recently my daughter did a presentation on Brazil for her social studies class. As part of the project, she made Chocolate Brigadeiros to share with her classmates. The recipe she settled on was from The Brazilian Kitchen: 100 Classic and Contemporary Recipes for the Home Cook by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz; the directions were clear and the end result was positively divine. I must say, too, that this is one of the few recipes where the end result looked all most like the picture!

So if you are still looking for a chocolate surprise to share on Valentine’s Day, you might want to give these addictive little treats a try. And, if you need a way to package the candies, take a look at these printable Valentine candy boxes at or

Doodle, Reflect, and Plan

January 3, 2014

If you typically throw your calendar into the recycle bin at the end of the year, you may want to reconsider … 

A Playing with Fabric post about doodling on calendars and reflecting about the year past and thinking about the year ahead

The other day, I walked past my daughter’s room where she was quietly embellishing her 2013 wall calendar using a magenta Sharpie and a ruler; she has continued to work on it over holiday break, taking her time and carefully considering how she wants to fill in each square.

While it is a wonderfully simple creative exercise – treating each square as its own canvas, each page as its own gallery is a nice scale to work on (I say having just completed a full-size bed quilt) – it is also so meditative.

So go ahead, retrieve your 2013 calendar and pick out your favorite Sharpie color, then find a quiet place to think about the year just past and set intentions for the year ahead. And for my readers who quilt or embroider, you might just discover a new pattern in those doodles!

Scripted Landscape

December 18, 2013

I met Krista Varsbergs several years ago when we were both volunteers in a school art program. When I visited her home several months later, it took me a few minutes to realize most of the beautiful artwork displayed – paintings, photographs,  mixed media – was her own. Since that time, she has become a friend, a client, and a colleague.

Like many of us who make, she is always exploring new directions and combining interests in her art. Case in point, pairing favorite quotes with her photographs to create an image that makes you stop, think, and reflect – and, with the photo below, pull your sweater a bit closer before moving on to the rest of the day.

Scripted Landscapes

Photo Courtesy of Krista Varsbergs

When she announced the opening of her Etsy shop recently, I asked if she would take a few minutes to answer some questions …

YM:  I am always interested in how people come up with a name for a business … How did you arrive at the name “Brake Studios”? 

Krista:  My last name happens to be pretty hard to remember and spell right, so that wasn’t an option for my business. I wanted the name to represent why I’m making and selling this work, not just describe what it is. And so I boiled it down to this: I hope these prints will cause people to pause, if even for a nano-second, in the middle of their craziness. Put on the brakes so to speak.

YM: Your photographs and quote pairings are so powerful. Where do you begin – with the photo or the quote?

Krista: I’ve been collecting my favorite quotes since I was a teenager. I was organized back then, writing them carefully in a beautiful handmade book a friend gave me, but now they’re just stuffed in a hanging file – a big mess of notes scrawled on scraps of paper. But it works! I usually dig around in there and start with a quote that’s particularly meaningful to me at the time, and then I try to figure out how to make it visually appealing without illustrating it too literally. I don’t want it to be too obvious, like a picture of a window for the “when a door closes, a window opens” quote kind of thing.

I also have a digital equivalent of the hanging file for photos I have taken. I go on a hunt for something that just resonates with the quote, and sometimes the image ends up being primary, the quote secondary. That’s when I think the image can stand alone, but if you get up close enough you get the bonus of reading a really great quote.

YM: Your prints are now on Etsy. What else is happening in the studio?  

Krista: Selling my prints is partially to support my painting habit, and some archival prints of that work – still lifes and landscapes – will be coming to my Etsy shop soon, so I am busy selecting the paintings that will be featured.

Visit Brake Studios here to see more of Krista’s work; she also takes custom orders.

Making Nested Boxes with a Pattern in Modern Quilts Illustrated

November 18, 2013

When Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr of Modern Quilt Studio asked if they could feature “Nested Boxes” in an upcoming issue of Modern Quilts Illustrated, I was a bit excited to say the least! The issue, #7, is now out and it’s an odd feeling to see something you have made in a totally different setting – the beautiful styling of the photo makes me want the want the entire room – even the healthy plant!

Nested Boxes

I have enjoyed making this quilt several times and have always leaned towards a low-contrast look in selecting the two fabrics – Bill and Weeks offer a couple of other looks in the magazine. While careful piecing is critical, once the colors are decided upon, it is all about the sewing and watching the quilt come together.  To check out the quilts/patterns featured in Issue #7 of Modern Quilts Illustrated or to subscribe, go on over to Modern Quilt Studio here.

Happy quilting!

Balance Notecards

October 26, 2013
Balance Notecards

Balance Notecards

When I was making “Balance,” a quilt inspired by the colors and symbols of the Chakra that I wrote about here, I thought the blocks would lend themselves really well to notecards. The cards feature some of my favorite blocks from the quilt on one side and on the flip side, in small print, is a phrase that suggests an action to take – for example, “Connect to nature … plant a garden” – that relates to the Chakra color featured on the front.

Whether you study the Chakras, are a healing arts professional, or simply like a good notecard, I hope you enjoy this set. The cards are available in my Big Cartel shop here, as well as through Anderson’s Bookshop, a great local independent bookshop in my neighborhood.

Notecard set includes 21 cards and envelopes -  3 each of 7 images

Notecard set includes 21 cards and envelopes –
3 each of 7 images

Recalibrating the Creative Self

October 10, 2013


The intention was to take a few weeks off this summer from writing here but once out of the habit, it has been hard to get back into the routine. (My visits to the gym have suffered a similar fate.) As I sit down at the keyboard on this beautiful fall day though, I realize the time away has been good – necessary really – to re-calibrate where I am going on several levels including my quilting work.

Spending time outside growing a vegetable garden, meeting friends for coffee or simply a walk, visiting family, and really focusing my business on work that I most enjoy has all been good for reinvigorating my creativity and professional life.

So, some excellent reads if you need to take a mental pause to figure out what’s next  …

Is there a particular book you have found insightful, inspiring as you decide what’s next in your creative life? Share it here by leaving a comment.