Archive for December, 2011

Hand Made, Last Minute Hostess Gifts

December 28, 2011

This year when hosting a family party, we used a theme from several years ago, “Make It or Bake It.” As the hostess of this sit-down dinner party for 26, I was tempted to purchase items (made by others, of course) for our family’s gifts for the grab bag but decided against it. Our contributions:  My husband made granola based on a recipe from the classic More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. I made an apron using a holiday dish towel from Crate & Barrel and somewhat following the directions for a “Tea Towel Apron” in 1 2 3 Sew: Build Your Skills with 33 Simple Projects, a great sewing book by Ellen Luckett Baker, especially for someone just taking up this craft. This apron was so easy that I am going to make a few more to have on hand for hostess gifts in the coming year – it also helps me justify purchasing some of the great tea towels out there these days!

Happy sewing in the New Year!

The French Seam – A Must See Fabric Boutique in Indianapolis

December 16, 2011

Over Thanksgiving, while visiting my brother and his family in Indianapolis, I discovered The French Seam, a place where “Vintage and Modern Meet,” according to this fabric retailer’s website. So, while most people rushed out on Black Friday to pick up the latest electronic for someone on their Christmas list, I went to the The French Seam. 

Photo Courtesy of The French Seam

It is hard to write this post without gushing, but The French Seam is truly a lovely fabric boutique – yes, “boutique,” not “store” because, well, store sounds too common, too JoAnn Fabrics. The French Seam is not pretentious in the least; on the contrary, when I walked in the door, it was like walking through a magic portal into a  welcoming, relaxing, inspiring environment – a respite from the busy world on the other side of the doors. The French Seam is a family endeavor with Courtney Young full time and her mother, Linda Compton stepping in when not at her day job. They are experienced sewers with an impeccable eye for fabric; the fabrics (linens, silks, wools…) are simply gorgeous – the feel, look, colors. Even though I have not made a pair of trousers in years, I want to make a pair (or twenty)!

Photo Courtesy of The French Seam

The store is smartly laid out and there is much attention to details: There are comfortable chairs on which to sit and contemplate what you are going to make or to peruse patterns and books (or even balance your checkbook to see if you can afford to buy EVERYTHING you want). The lighting is good and there is space to move around. The 1000+ bolts of fabric are nicely displayed so that you can see color options and the quilting cottons are laid out in collections or interesting palettes that work together. For example, I found Lotta Jansdotter’s fabrics grouped together and promptly selected an arm full to purchase. The notions are easy to find and the assortment is well-curated – many are of high-quality, there are just enough choices and each one has a purpose (i.e., no gimicky devices here).

The store caters to people of all sewing abilities – from the beginner to the professional. This is evident in the fabrics, patterns, books, and now class offerings. The boutique is also extremely customer focused – so important if much of your competition sits in the form of a computer in front of many of your customers 24/7. Courtney and Linda (and the other employees working the day I visited)  were attentive to each customer, not in an intrusive way at all; they simply wanted to introduce themselves to customers and offer to help in any way if needed. While some of the customers were new to the store that day, many were returning and on a first name basis with employees. My bet is that this store will play a key role in attracting a new generation of people who sew and provide inspiration to those who all ready enjoy this craft!

Photo Courtesy of The French Seam

Whether you are visiting Indy from another place or just “playing visitor” in the place where you live, there are many places to explore in this very drivable city. My ideal itinerary (in no particular order) …

The French Seam

Mass Ave Arts District to stroll through the independently owned shops, including the Mass Ave Knit Shop

Broadripple area shops

Zesco – a restaurant supply company that I have not personally been to, but have received the best ever muffin tin from; it is open to the public and it is on my list next time I go to Indy.

Lunch at Taste

Dinner at La Piedad

This ideal day in Indy is going to have to wait for now, however, because its back to the sewing table for me to finish up some gifts. Happy sewing!

An Interview with Weeks Ringle of the New Magazine Modern Quilts Illustrated

December 11, 2011

As background  …

I first met Weeks Ringle when I enrolled in her “Eclipse” class, a pattern that appears in her book The Modern Quilt Workshop. The class was like none other I had taken in that the discussion encompassed not just making the quilt at hand, but the idea behind the design, color theory, fabric selection, technique … During the class, she mentioned that she and her business partner/husband, Bill Kerr, would be hosting a quilt camp a few miles away later that summer; I signed up that night and anxiously counted down the months, weeks, and days. It was the first and only time since beginning a family that I took a week to just focus on quilting; the camp was not about making a particular quilt, but expanding students’ perspective about making a quilt. Since that time, Weeks and I and our families have become good friends.  I continue to be one of their biggest fans, so when I she told me about their plans for a new magazine, I could not wait for that first issue to come out, never failing to ask when I spoke with her “How’s the magazine coming along?” It has been well worth the wait – the magazine is beautiful, engrossing, and the patterns so easy to follow.

They have a lot going on over at the Modern Quilt Studio (a name change is also in the works – Modern Quilt Studio officially takes over from FunQuilts in 2012) these days, but Weeks took out a few minutes to answer some questions …

You have been busy writing books and patterns, contributing to magazines as well as making quilt commissions. What made you decide to start your own magazine?

Weeks:  We kept waiting for someone else to do a magazine for the modern quilters out there. Then we realized we had the skill sets to do it ourselves and that it would be a fun challenge.

How do you and Bill divide the work of producing a magazine and creating the content — the actual designing and making of the quilts?

We each design and make the quilts and sometimes we have an intern who helps with cutting and occasionally sewing. Bill and I can rarely look at anything and remember who did what. He is a professor of graphic design so he did most of the graphic design but I had ideas and input that also helped shape the look of the magazine. I tend to do all of the styling and art direction for the photography. I came up with the idea for Still Life with Pears but Bill actually made it entirely on his own, which is rare. I did most of Beatrix and he and our intern Jane did the sewing on Stacks. We also divide up the quilting and often quilt each others pieces. It’s almost entirely an issue of who is available to do a given task at a given time. We have too many deadlines to be territorial and as long as we’re both making things, we’re easy about who does what.

"Still Life with Pears" - Photo Courtesy of Modern Quilt Studio

What do you most enjoy about producing Modern Quilts Illustrated? What do you least enjoy? What has been the biggest surprise?

I love creating an entirely new look and feel to it. I don’t think too many of them will end up in the recycling bin. I think people get that there’s a lot of inspiration in it and they’ll hold onto it. The least enjoy answer would be having to come up with a whole new shipping sytem to accommodate all of the new orders. Working our way through new software and label printers was time consuming and not fun but it’s important to get it right. In the end, we’ve dramatically increased the efficiency of our shipping so it’s finally paying off. The biggest surprise was how many traditional shops have ordered it to “keep the younger quilters coming in the shop.” We expected shops with a modern customer base to order but we didn’t expect traditional shops to embrace it. One shop e-mailed us that they had totally sold out of their order in two weeks.

I would also say that the popularity of it among Australians has been surprising. Australian shops and individuals alike have been sending orders. Today I e-mailed back and forth to an Australian man who is ordering it for his wife for Christmas.

Where can quilters find the magazine? Do you offer subcriptions? When will the next issue of Modern Quilts Illustrated be available?

You can see if your local quilt shop is carrying it. We offer subscriptions for $30 for the first three issues. We have printed enough of Issue #1 that will still be available a year from now I’m guessing. We understand that some people might not find it until Issue #5 and they might want back issues. Issue # 2 comes out in late March and Issue #3 will ship in July. We made a decision not to sell to Amazon so independent shop owners will have something that is not available on Amazon.

You have another book coming out soon. Can you tell us about it and when it will hit bookstore shelves?

“Transparency Quilts” is expected to arrive at the warehouse on December 1. We hope to have it by mid-December but I know that Amazon doesn’t get it until January.

While many people quilt to unwind from their day, how do you unwind when quilting is your livelihood?

Exercise is an important part of our lives. We also love to play games with our 10-year-old daughter. We cook, garden, knit, read and draw in our free time, although there hasn’t been much of that of late. We’re hoping to have our weekends free in 2012.

I eat a mostly vegetarian diet but tend to shy away from serving a vegetarian menu at the holidays partly because I’m afraid it won’t come off very festive (and maybe I’m just not able to give up the turkey smell I so associate with the holiday). Since you and your family have followed a vegetarian diet for decades, what did you serve for Thanksgiving?

Well I’ve been a vegetarian since 1979 and Bill became one before we met so no one at our Thanksgiving table is interested in turkey. This year we served a delicious vegetarian pot pie, mashed potatoes, orange cranberry relish, Brussels sprouts with garlic and parmesan cheese and my favorite gingery pumpkin pie. We cook from scratch most days and especially on the holidays. For Christmas and New Year’s it’s often buckwheat crepes with spinach and cheese filling or broccoli souffle or our favorite goat cheese walnut individual souffles. We set a fancy table with nice linens, flowers and candles. We make sure the food is plated beautifully even though it’s usually just the three of us. I think it’s very festive but I don’t know if others would agree.

To see more of the quilts in the current issue of Modern Quilts Illustrated or to order the magazine from Modern Quilt Studio,  Modern Quilts Illustrated, visit Weeks’ blog, Craft Nectar, or their website

Photo Courtesy of Modern Quilt Studio

Photo Courtesy of Modern Quilt Studio

Happy quilting.  I’m going to e-mail Weeks to see if their new book is ready for shipping!

Modern Blocks: And the Winner Is …

December 4, 2011

I am pleased to announce the winner of the Modern Blocks book is Joy … Congratulations! I will be contacting you via e-mail regarding your mailing info.