Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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!

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.

Creative Habits: Illustrating a Favorite Book a Page at a Time

January 15, 2013


In 2011, Moby Dick in Pictures: One Drawing for Every Page by Matt Kish was published. If you missed it, go to your local library or bookstore today and pick up a copy.  Why? Because if you are looking to establish a creative habit, this is so inspirational on many levels …

  • Matt Kish is a self-taught artist (day job – English teacher).
  • In 2009, he began producing one drawing every day for each page in the Signet Classics paperback edition of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  That’s 552 pieces of art.
  • He uses a variety of materials and techniques, including pen and ink on found paper,  ballpoint pen on found paper, watercolors on paper … In other words, he did not go out on a buying spree to get all the materials he needed (at least I don’t think he did) and instead looked around at what was on hand for the most part and got onto creating art and experimenting with techniques. I have to believe he felt like a kid again, especially as he got into the flow of the project.

The end result is a wonderful, captivating book that is exciting to look at – I finally stopped counting which illustrations were my “absolute favorite” in the book! If you’ve been trying to get a family member or student to read Moby Dick, this might be the way to entice them to pick up Melville’s classic. They will get a taste of the story from the illustrations and the quote included with each drawing that inspired the art.



So this book got me thinking, what book would I most like to illustrate? My choice, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, one of the first books I fell in love with as a kid (besides Nancy Drew).

What book would you like to illustrate? Well, get going!

To read more about Matt Kish and see what else he is up to, visit his blog here.

A side note: If you are a fan of Moby Dick and like to be read to here is another very interesting link to check out – The Moby Dick Big Read Project. Unfortunately, you may have to put everything aside and just listen because this ends around January 29th or so.


Building Creative Habits in 2013 and Beyond

January 8, 2013


Can I just say I do not think I have ever been so sick with the flu in all of my years, but I’m back – just moving a bit slow still – with lots of ideas flowing for another busy good year!

As 2013 gets under way, many of us have been feverishly setting goals that we hope to achieve in the next 12 months. While everything seems doable on this 8th day of January, somewhere along late spring, early summer, the list looks daunting – that is, if we can find the list of goals! Although these goals – professional, wellness, personal – are important because they give us direction, what I often coach my small business clients on, however, is that the goals are just one aspect of laying out a 12-month, 24-month, etc. plan. Another important piece is to look at your habits – are you investing the time and energy into changing bad or unhealthy ones and putting in place habits that will help you grow and fuel your ideas, in other words, creative habits.

Creativity is not strictly the domain of artists, musicians, and actors. It comes into play across professions and in your personal life. When we start giving the time consistently (i.e., daily or weekly) to think about a problem we want to solve, how to be a better parent, or how to perfect our art, and then experimenting with ideas, the momentum just builds. You are aiming for that place where you get lost in the flow and start looking at things from different angles.

A couple of books that drive this idea of creativity and habit home are:

In the coming weeks, set aside some time each day (or a few hours once a week if you can’t commit to a daily creative practice) … For people who draw, buy a fresh sketchbook and commit to adding a sketch a day, maybe even giving yourself a time parameter  (e.g., draw something but it must be finished within 30 minutes); for people who write, choose a topic to explore and write about it each day for a week, then move onto a new topic; for people who craft, choose  something to explore during the month (e.g., expanding your knitting repertoire); for people who are at a crossroads in their business life, take a step back and begin examining what is working, what is not, and then put in the time to address each aspect. In this latter case, I suggest spending time on a hobby or allowing yourself to take some field trips to places that have been on your list but you never seem to have time for – this opens up thinking and helps create those “aha moments”.

What will your creative habits look like in 2013?

A Luscious Lemon Meringue Pie to Celebrate Summer

August 28, 2012

Nothing says “summer” to me quite like the taste of lemons and this one was divine after a long hot day …

Perhaps it is the book title alone that speaks to me  – Handheld Pies: Dozens of Pint-Sized Sweets and Savories by Rachel Wharton & Sarah Billingsley/Photography by Ellen Silverman – anything that suggests it is made by hand deserves at least a few minutes of my attention. Or, maybe it is the fact that the pies are made in darling, individual serving sizes – the lemon meringue pie was made in glass jars.  (I actually used individual Pyrex bakers that I picked up at a garage sale.) The single servings should have been enough, although my husband and I split another one just in case it wouldn’t keep well till the next day.

With another week of 85 degree plus days ahead, I may just need to make these one more time before summer’s end! Happy sewing – and baking!

Simple Knitting by Erika Knight

August 11, 2012

At the library, my eyes are always way too big for my strength and free time. My armload of books on one recent visit included Erika Knight’s book Simple Knitting: A Complete How-to-Knit Workshop with 20 Projects published in 2011The classic knitted designs made with gorgeous yarns, beautiful photographs by Yuki Sugiura, the simple but clear illustrations, legible typefaces, the paper the book is printed on, and the text all combine to create this feeling of calm – definitely not the vibe I typically give off when knitting – and simplicity.

Great photographs and descriptions of individual stitch patterns.

As a big fan of Eileen Fisher clothing (but an owner of few pieces) and cardigan sweaters, this sweater really spoke to me … I might just knit this sweater over winter.

Make sure to click on the links above for more inspiration from Erika Knight (her blog is here) and Yuki Sugiura.

Happy sewing, knitting, making!

A Beautiful Book: America’s Other Audubon

July 31, 2012

After reading several reviews of America’s Other Audubon by Joy M. Kiser, I was finally able to obtain a copy through my local library. This beautiful book has a sad, but ultimately heart-warming story about a family’s ability to cope with tragedy by finishing a young woman’s dream of illustrating the nests and eggs of birds of Ohio and leaving a legacy not only for science but also for artists and others looking to be inspired.

The text is beautifully written and the illustrations are breathtaking …

One of my favorite passages in the book is written in connection with the Baltimore Oriole.  For those of us engaged in art and craft, it gives much to think about. “The depth and beauty of a nest, therefore seems to depend more upon the materials at hand, the experience, genius, and hurry of the workers, than upon any other circumstances, each pair of birds shaping their home after their own ideas.” – Text by Howard Jones, America’s Other Audubon by Joy M. Kiser, Page 24

To learn more about this book and the story behind it, listen to an interview with Joy Kiser at

Another wonderful book about nests is Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build by Peter Goodfellow.

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!

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” Book Giveaway

November 28, 2011

Just in time for the holidays, I am giving away a copy of Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite Designers. If you haven’t seen this book, you can read more about it on my November 13th post. To put your name in the hat for the drawing, simply leave a comment about quilting or fabric. (If, like me, you are still recovering from too much pie during Thanksgiving and need some ideas: Do you like working with solids, prints, or a combination best; do you like working on one project at a time or multiple; what colors are you most drawn to right now.)

Next Sunday, December 4th, my daughter with the assistance of our newest family member Audrey (see my last post), will draw the winner’s name from the hat. The winner will be announced here and then contacted via e-mail for mailing info, so stay tuned!