Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Just Published – Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite Designers

November 13, 2011

I am pleased to say that Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite Designers, a book I contributed four blocks to, is now in bookstores and quilt shops!

I own a couple of quilt block books and the thing I love about them is that they are a great source of inspiration – the block design is there, now you get to play with it from a color and layout standpoint. Block books can also force your hand to experiment with new techniques or fine tune others; you can just make a single block without committing to a large quilt.  That said, as a designer, when you design just one block, you do have to think ahead to how someone can take this single block and turn it into a wall hanging or something larger like a bed quilt.

Here are the four blocks I contributed …

Checkered Fields. A side note here – If you buy the hard copy of this first printing of Modern Blocks, you just might have something valuable in another 50 years or so. The designer was misidentified here as Angela Yosten, rather than me. It has all ready been corrected in electronic versions and will be corrected in the next print run, so better get your copy now!

Open Book.


Seeing Double.

So, I suggest you pick up a copy of this book from your local bookstore or quilt shop and start experimenting! If you live Chicago’s western suburbs, Anderson’s Bookshop has the book in stock as does the Quilt Basket in Downers Grove.

Please stay tuned for a giveaway of this book within the next month.

Happy sewing!


Celebrating a Birthday and a Friendship with a Plate of Goodness

August 30, 2011

For my birthday earlier this summer, a dear friend made me cookies. It was a wonderful gift and not one I had received in years – I’m usually the baker, not the one being baked for! The funny thing is, they were Cowboy Cookies from one of my favorite cookbooks, Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts. I make these cookies a lot, but mine always end up crispy hard within about two hours of coming out of the oven (a genetic thing I inherited from my mother); hers were of the melt-in-the-mouth variety…delicious. This past week, I had the chance to return the favor when she had a birthday. However, I also changed it up a bit.

So let me back up to that point between my birthday and my friend’s. In July, I was visiting my aunt in St. Charles, Illinois and popped into one of my favorite shops, Stonehouse on Cedar. It carries an ever-changing collection of antiques and handmade items, most of which fall into the category of beautiful and useful. On the clearance shelf was a butter-yellow plate, and with cookie crumbs virtually still in the corners of my mouth, a lightbulb went off and a “big idea” was born: For my friend’s birthday, I would give her baked goods on the plate and I would tell her we were starting a new tradition. Next year for my birthday, she would fill the plate with something delicious and return it to me; I would then pass the plate back to her for her birthday a few months later. (This does not sound like good etiquette here – telling her what to give me for my birthday – but it was fine in person.)

While I had planned to bake my friend cookies, I had been telling her about a wonderful gluten free bakery in a nearby town and decided to introduce her to it (she is on a gluten free diet). I took the plate over to Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery in Hinsdale, Illinois and picked out a sampler of cookies; the accommodating salespeople made it look “birthday like” by wrapping it all up with cellophane and a bow.

My friend loved the idea but suggested that whoever has the plate can choose when to pass it back – we could be celebrating a birthday or some other event, commemorating a holiday, or providing a lift when the other person could use it. I love how this idea has unfolded and each of us has added to it!

Yard-Sale Wrap Skirt and Lessons Learned

July 20, 2011

The “Yard-Sale Wrap Skirt” pictured on the cover of Heather Ross’ book, Weekend Sewing, sold me on the book and the opening description, “…can be easily made in one afternoon” moved this project to the top of my summer sewing list (which I was now making in mid-July, a couple of years after the book was published). I was not deterred when a power failure put a hold on my afternoon sewing plans.

When the lights came back on 69.5 hours later, I was ready to go. And, being a confident seamstress, I did not take the time to read the size information; when I was slightly stumped by the waistband directions, I reached back into my sewing brain archive and just assembled/attached it the way I had in past garments. So … when I finished my skirt and went into the bathroom to put it on and model for my family – saying from behind closed doors, how easy this pattern was and “by golly I am not going to buy another clothing item this season, I will make whatever I need. In fact, I can tell I am going to love this skirt, I am going to make it in a big print next, maybe even tomorrow.” Then I put the skirt on and realized to my horror that the small/medium size did not fit!  Not even close – I needed a “large/extra-large”. Yes, I was that confident before I cut the skirt out that I did not even hold the pattern up to see if it would fit … heck, it’s got six panels, certainly they will all go around me and overlap at least a panel … I only weigh 5 pounds more than in high school, okay so the pounds aren’t in the same places, whatever … my stomach is a little less firm then it used to be, but, but, but, but … maybe I can make it work anyway.

So, I came out of the bathroom, a little less perky than when I went in, and said “what do you think?  Does it look too small when I walk?” My husband commented something to the effect of as long as it was very still outside and there was not a bit of wind it would be fine. Great.

I tried wrapping and tying the skirt in different places and in the end realized, I need to get off to the gym and start working those abs like I am auditioning for some action film in which I will be wearing midriff tops throughout. Or, make the “large/extra large” size. Or … this might be the best option, make the “small/medium” size but add 3 inches to each panel. There we go, then I can still say I made the “small/medium” size, kind of.

Enough about my shifting proportions (okay, I’ve said it, kind of). What I really should have done – in addition to reading the measurement information and fitting the pattern before I cut the fabric – is gone on the Internet and searched for comments from people who have all ready made this skirt. I would have seen a number of comments about the sizing and some other tips about making the skirt, even on Heather Ross’ blog. That is the beauty of the Internet and blogs, you can learn so much from the sewing experiences of others. So, my advice when making something from any pattern or book, take a minute and look online to see if there is anything you need to know before you sew – insights from other people who sew or corrections from the author.

By the way, I love the skirt and will either get into the one I made or make it again using the right measurements. Right now, I am going to do a few crunches, planks …

Summer Reading – Passion, Purpose, and Art

July 4, 2011

My summer reading list . . .

Summer Reading List

Life, On the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas. The title pretty much says it all and I could not put this book down – I loved reading about Achatz’s life, his passion for cooking, and the vision behind his restaurants.

I skimmed these books, but the library needed them back before I could actually read them, so I’m back on the wait list (sigh):

  • The Paper Garden: An Artist Begins Her Life’s Work at 72 by Molly Peacock
  • Paris Between the Wars 1919 – 1939: Art, Life & Culture by Gerard Derozoi and Vincent Bouvet

Sneak Peak at the Exciting New Quilting Book “Modern Blocks”

June 9, 2011

The soon to be published quilting book Modern Blocks: 99 Quilt Blocks from Your Favorite Designers is not just any quilting book, it is the first book I am contributing to – 4 blocks to be exact – and I am soooo excited! I am also very honored to be included in a book with other modern quilt makers that I have admired.

Modern Blocks will hit bookstores in October, but here’s a sneak peak at the cover which will give you a visual taste of what’s inside the book.


Stay tuned for more about the book!

Peeking into Where Artists Work with Lotta Jansdotter’s New Book, “Open Studios”

May 5, 2011

When Lotta Jansdotter’s new book, Open Studios: Twenty-Four Artists’ Spaces, arrived in my mailbox several weeks ago, I shoved everything aside, grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down to have a look at where others make things. I just wish there was an interactive feature (a really interactive feature) where I could open up drawers, look into cupboards, touch the fabric, hold the finished products, and basically explore every nook and cranny of the studios featured!  I was familiar with some of the artists and designers profiled, like Susan and Katharine Hable of Hable Construction, others like Asuka Karasawa of Ateliers Penelope were new.

If you have a chance to pick up a copy of this wonderful book from your local bookstore or library, make sure you allot enough time – time to read the book and then a couple of hours to go to each artist’s website. Also, some reading advice: don’t skip the introduction because there is a really important sentence in there about what a studio is, and for those of us who work in fairly humble surroundings, it’s important to see this in black and white before you turn the page! That said, however, you won’t be depressed after looking at the studios – some artists work outside their home in generous spaces flooded with natural light, while others work in a small corner in their homes.

When I was finished reading and looking at websites, I was feeling rather inspired, so I did one more thing: I designed my fantasy studio and tacked it up on the wall – the footprint looks a little like my son’s bedroom, the son who will be heading off for college in several years…

Maybe someday my studio will be ready for cameras!

Book Review: Zakka Sewing

August 19, 2010

Some time ago, I wrote that I was going to take a look at Zakka Sewing: 25 Japanese Projects for the Household, by Therese Laskey and Chika Mori. It is a wonderful treasure of handmade objects for the home, some of which can truly be crafted in an hour or so, like this simple, charming basket:

I did make one change to the instructions (on page 32 in the book), which speeded sewing time up even more: Since I was using a print fabric, I omitted the machine embroidery the pattern called for, as well as the decorative button. After completing the basket, I top stitched along the edge of the basket. Next time, I think I will make the handles from ribbon rather than fabric.

This basket was so easy to make that I might just make another five to hold party favors for my daughter’s upcoming birthday party…a couple more to hold teacher gifts…a few more for friends…or, maybe I will just turn the page in the book and try another project!

Happy sewing!

One More Day of Winter Please

March 15, 2010

What kind of crazy request is that? Well, this weekend I pulled out some yarn that I bought several years ago at Knitche in Downers Grove, Illinois, and knit up a scarf that I want to wear one time before it is stowed away till next winter.

I wanted to knit a scarf on autopilot, but something other than a simple garter stitch. After looking through several knitting books, I came across the “hurdle rib” in Nicky Epstein’s Knitting on the Edge and decided to knit the entire scarf in this stitch pattern. In the sample swatch in the book, it almost has a cross-stitch effect. This effect was pretty much lost in my scarf, I think, because of the bulky, variegated yarn used. No matter because the scarf still, in my opinion, looks pretty darn good. The yarn is essentially two strands of different colors twisted together; of the two skeins used, there were only several color combinations that repeated.

The hurdle rib should be used with an even number of stitches. Knit the first two rows and then knit 1, purl 1 for the next two rows; just repeat this four-row pattern until you reach the desired length.

I wish I knew more about the yarn, but the tag had limited information: “Hand-plyed, natural dyed 70% merino/30% angora worsted/heavy worsted.” The gauge listed was 3 to 3.5 stitches per inch on U.S. needles sizes 9 – 11. I used two skeins of yarn and cast on 22 stitches on size 11 needles. The finished scarf measures 42 inches long.

A Review of Kata Golda’s Hand-Stitched Felt

February 23, 2010

Kata Golda’s recent book, Hand-Stitched Felt, is a must have for anyone who likes to embroider – or thinks they might want to give it a try. Her approach is forgiving but the end result is whimsical and perfect in its own way.  In the introduction, she sends her readers off with this closing sentence: “With this book, I hope that you, too, will be inspired to create your own large, colorful, and uniquely imperfect stitches.”  What a nice break from the precise quilting I am used to!

The sections on “Tools and Materials” and “Stitches and Knots” provide the necessary background to get started on the 25 projects included in this book, all of which employ basic embroidery stitches and only a needle and thread to complete (i.e., no sewing machine required – yeah!). The text and pictures are clear – there is no “say what?” reaction when you read through the directions the first time.

It took about 30 minutes to whip up this charming little picture for a friend’s baby boy. While Ms. Golda explains how to use a template to get the stitches in the right place, it is her section on “Drawing Stitches Freehand” that I really liked. It reminded me of how the artist Paul Klee explained “a drawing is simply a line going for a walk ,” and it felt this way when I began to stitch the details on this little bunny.

I will definitely be tucking some of these projects into my purse to work on when I find myself with a bit of unexpected down time away from home.

As an aside, this book is perfect, too, for younger stitchers (I’d say 8 and up). It would make a great gift when combined with some wool felt, embroidery floss, embroidery needles and a pair of scissors, all placed into a sewing basket.

For now, I am off to find a frame to finish this project up. If you want to see more of Kata Golda’s work, visit her website here.

A Cute Little Bunny

January 19, 2010

First, let me say, I love miniatures. When I was little, one of my favorite dolls was one inch tall. I hand sewed that baby doll about 25 little snugglies, made her a  bed and other furnishings out of matchboxes, and have now passed her down to my daughter (who much prefers larger dolls). This love of miniatures is what first attracted me to Baby Stuff:  Let’s Make Cute Stuff by Aranzi Aronzo!

Product Details

The book is written in a graphic novel format, a format that works well given the content and relatively simple instructions. My nine-year old daughter found this format especially engaging: She generally looks at just the pictures in craft books, but she sat down and actually read a good piece of the book, too. Together, we decided to make Little Bunny, but rather than make it from terry cloth as suggested, we chose to use cotton quilting-weight fabric, a decision I am glad we made. With Valentine’s around the corner, my daughter settled on a heart theme and asked if we (meaning I) could make thirteen dolls, one for every girl in her class. I quickly let her know that we were making one Little Bunny, not thirteen.

The instructions were clear and the pattern was already at 100%, so there was no need to enlarge it according to the book.  While I have always considered my hands quite nimble from years of sewing and crafting, I did not feel this way once I started sewing and turning these tiny pieces right side out.  Thank goodness for tweezers and a fruit kebob stick! If I had used the terry cloth as suggested, I don’t think I would have been able to turn the ears, arms, or legs right-side out.

This little guy is so cute that I would like to make it again (though not thirteen more times), especially as a quick gift to stitch up for a new baby or the baby’s siblings.  However, I would definitely enlarge the pattern, probably by 100%, to make it stitch up easier and to use a more generous seam allowance rather than the 3/8″ seam allowance used in the book. I also think if the pattern were larger, a younger person could make it up if they had some sewing experience under their belt.