A Banner Halloween

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I’ve always loved Halloween, although I think the reason I like it so much mostly has to do with the weather!  I also like funny costumes and fall festivals complete with trunk-or-treating and donuts on a string.  But I really love Halloween decorations.  Not really the kind that try to be seriously scary or gory or whatever.  Just the fun stuff.

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I especially like Halloween decorations that have a vintage flair, and was drawn to some fun fabric I found on clearance at a shop called Stitching It Up in Cedar City, Utah.  I have  been to this shop a few times over the years, and I follow Kim on Instagram.  The shop is lovely and covers lots of stitching joy- quilting as well as needlework.

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I was really excited about the fabrics you can’t actually see very well in the photo.  They are printed Halloween banners with a gothic text style, and when I saw them inspiration struck.

While I love holidays for a lot of reasons, the biggest one is that it gives me an excuse to make stuff for our kids and grandkids.  First of all, I don’t think we celebrate enough in life.  There is so much good in this world.  So many things to enjoy and be happy about.  And secondly, let’s be real, as much as there is to be happy about, life can be hard.  Maybe things are tight financially.  Maybe work or school hasn’t been going as well as one had hoped.  Maybe there are unexpected physical challenges.  And maybe everything is just fine.  In any case, I am grateful for little opportunities to do things for our kids to try to let them know that I love them.  That I am thinking of them.  That I want them to have a little something extra to smile about.

So, why not some Halloween goodies?  Just for fun.  There were just enough banners on the fabrics to accomplish my goal, so when I got back from Utah I started plotting.

The first set of banners weren’t quite big enough for what I wanted to do, so I added a striped fabric to the bottom of each strip of lettering before loading them onto Juan.  I plotted out the desired shape on the computer and stitched around each letter.  It took a little longer than I expected because I wasn’t sure how to plot it such that it didn’t stop between each letter.

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The other banner had the shape I wanted, and it was just a matter of stitching the layers together.  I was glad to have strips of batting left from other projects that were just the right size.  It is always good to me to find a use for leftover batting, although I usually cut it into smaller bits and use it to dust and clean.

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After they were stitched out on the longarm, I used pinking shears to cut around each shape.  I didn’t want to make a double-fold bias tape to connect the letters because I felt like it was just too much work.  So I cut a strip of fabric using a pinking blade on my rotary cutter and then using a glue stick, glued the letters into place.  I was really worried I was going to accidentally put them in the wrong order and spell something wrong!  Then I took the banners to the sewing machine and just stitched through the top strip to hold everything in place more permanently.

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Once these were finished, I packed up a few other things- some paper banners and little bit of candy, along with some Halloween themed books for the littles.  It’s quite the stack of boxes when I put these things together, and it does my heart good to know what that stack represents.  I love my peeps more than I can tell them, so I try to show them instead.

Years ago when I was a young mother, I was at a friend’s house when she received a package from her mom.  It was nothing special- just a small box of candy with a silly note.  I asked my friend about it and she said that it was from her mom, and that she sent things like that all of the time. It stuck with me, probably more than it stuck with her.  I knew it was something I wanted to do for my kids when they grew up and moved away from home.  I don’t do it as often as I would like, but I try to do it from time to time, and holidays give me a good excuse.

These pics from our son and his wife that were taken in their little college apartment made me smile.  I love holidays.

A Nice Place to Land

Travel is a very real part of my life, and I imagine and hope that it always will be.  Most recently I was back and forth from home in various stints over a stretch of a month and a half.  I will be home for about that long, and then gone again soon.  Then repeat.  Sometimes I travel for fun, like the trips we take twice a year to celebrate our marriage.  Or family reunion.  Or trips with our kids and their families.  Or the occasional quilt retreat that has no work attachments involved.  But while I don’t always travel with fun as the main purpose, it still is always fun.  Like visiting family, especially our kids and grandkids.  Or going to Quilt Market, if or when I go.  Or quilt retreats with work at least partly in mind, although sometimes work is the sole purpose.

For instance, the recent retreat The Green Apricot hosted in Crossville, TN.  I had a great time, and I loved being a hostess and cooking and hanging out and having a good time with friends.  On Thursday when it ended, it was good to see smiling faces packing up cars and heading back home again.  I, on the other hand, was not headed home.  Our granddaughter was having a birthday party in TN on Saturday, so rather than head south to Atlanta and then back up to Nashville the next day, I decided to hang around a bit and take it easy between retreat and birthday party.

As many of you know, I am a bit obsessed with donuts.  One time my husband looked at me and basically said, “If you’ve eaten one donut, you’ve eaten them all.”  I just stared at him.  The donut thing has been real my whole life, although I have hated Krispy Kreme for many years.  Mostly because my dad would get them on road trips, and inevitably I would get car sick, and well, the rest is history.  (As a note, I tried them again a couple of years ago, and I really do still hate them.)  The obsession, however, has really taken flight in the last couple of years because, well, donuts, and I love the idea that an easy way to shop local when traveling is to find a donut shop.  So, I try to look for donut shops whenever I am on the road.  This time I found Ralph’s Donuts in Cookeville, TN.  They’ve been there since 1962, and are located in a fun part of town with boutique shopping and eateries.  It was way off of my charted course from Crossville to Nashville, but totally worth it.  When I asked what was the one donut I had to order I got an immediate answer of, “Butter Twist.”  So, Butter Twist it was, and I was pleased.  I usually get two donuts at places like these.  A standard that I can compare with other donut shops, and their specialty.  But I had just returned from quilt retreat full of Oreos and Peanut M&Ms, so restraint was called for.  However, if I ever get to go back…

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Since I wasn’t in a big hurry, and I didn’t have the husband in tow, I thought I might check out Craft South in Nashville.  I’ve met Anna Maria Horner a couple of times, including once in a restaurant bathroom during Quilt Market, but that’s another story.  I’m kinda a big fan, and I love her work and her style, so I was looking forward to her shop.  However, it turned out that I might have actually been able to go into the store if Jeff had been with me.  I followed Sybil’s directions and found Craft South in a super trendy, fun neighborhood not too far from Vanderbilt’s campus.  But, all that fun and trend has a tendency to equal no parking.  After circling a neighborhood crawling with both construction and hipsters three times with no luck for parking, I bailed and headed to my evening destination.  Thompson’s Station, and Suzy Homemaker.

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Who exactly provides a snack bar in their guest room?  Who exactly puts together the perfect dinner because she knows what her guest needs?  Who exactly can cut through the crap and get to the real story with everything from politics to quilt shops?

Suzy Homemaker, of course.  No, that’s not totally her real name, but she is Suzy.  I met her a few years ago as she is Chris Warnick’s right-hand woman in putting on The Stash Bash, and have enjoyed her friendship ever since.  I messaged her a couple of weeks before I was going to be in Nashville to see if I could visit her and crash at her place for a night.  I knew it would be a treat to get to visit with her and her husband, but had no idea just how perfect of a place it was for me to land.

I had a great time at the quilt retreat in Crossville, and very much loved being a hostess for such an event.  But when it was over, I truly was exhausted.  It wasn’t until I settled in at Suzy’s that I realized how overstimulated I felt, and kind of wired.

Suzy keeps a lovely home, which shouldn’t surprise anyone.  So much of it is in the details.  Everything from the soap to the bed that I could barely convince myself to get out of the next morning.  Everywhere I turned there was something to look at and think about, but not in an excessively analytical way or in a trendy, copycat kind of way.  More like a “Huh- that’s cool-  I wouldn’t have thought of that, but it works perfectly” kind of way.

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She has such a great mix of wood and metal and white and black in her home, and just seems to highlight all the right things in all the right places.  Suzy and her husband are also in the race car industry, and there were hints of it throughout the house, but without being brash and kitschy.  It felt like Nashville, but it also felt like a canvas for conversation.

It was just what I needed- to be hosted for a day after hosting for a few.  We chatted into the night, and picked up again in the morning.  And of course, we had to get a donut, and head to a quilt shop.  This time there was plenty of parking.

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I stole these photos from the internet.  I am admitting it openly.  I’d like to give credit, but honestly, I’m not sure to whom I should give it!  At any rate, Suzy promised I would love Stitcher’s Garden, and she was not wrong.  Not by a longshot.  This place was packed.  I mean packed.  In every good way.  We have a shop in Georgia similar to it called Thread Bear Fabrics.  Both of the these shops have a crazy, serious selection.  You want traditional?  You got it.  You want modern?  You got it.  You want fat quarters?  You got more than you can imagine.  I had a fabulous time sifting through and making plans, and even remembering projects gone by.  I showed a bit of restraint, as I already have plenty and enough, but I did get a couple of things with purpose, and a couple without.

We literally shopped until the last moment.  Jeff flew in that afternoon, and I needed to navigate through Nashville traffic to pick him up at the airport.  It was good to see his face.  I enjoy my adventures, and I feel that I am fairly independent, but I miss him terribly when we are apart.

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Jeff and I go to Nashville from time to time as two of our daughters and their families live there.  We have a favorite place to stop and eat- Coco’s Italian Market and Restaurant.  My favorite appetizer is the bruschetta, pictured above.  I’d like to deconstruct it and try to make it at home, but I’m afraid I’d never get the bread quite right, and that I’d gain a couple hundred pounds!

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Speaking of low-cal Italian treats, we also never miss a chance to share a piece of Chocolate Eruption cheesecake.  We are kind of known for taking it to go with the intent of eating it a little later, but it never makes it more than a mile or so down the road.

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The next day we headed to our daughter’s house to spend the day celebrating our granddaughter’s birthday.  It was such a nice day with family, and I am so grateful that we were able to be there.  I feel very grateful for all of the travels, even the ones that can be somewhat stressful, but I am especially grateful for the travels that take me places like this one.  Some things matter, some things don’t.  Some things last, some things won’t.

 

The Getaway Gang

The Green Apricot hosted two retreats in 2017.  One coincided with QuiltCon in Savannah, GA, and planning for it began two years ago.  The other was just simply a getaway to take a breather at the end of summer and beginning of fall.  This one was a little more last minute, and while based a great deal on the fun time we had at Tybee Island in February, it was intended to be more low-key and have better accommodations.

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The Fall 2017 edition of  #thegreenapricotgetaway was located at a resort in Crossville, TN called Fairfield Glade.  I think you could call it a mixed-use property, as it is part resort and part community.  There are people who live there full time, but there are also a number of condominiums, and amenities ranging from golf courses to walking trails, from horseback riding to swimming, from medical facilities to a spa.  It’s located just off of I-40 about an hour west of Knoxville, and while the property is huge, I was surprised that not many seem to know about it.  It is not explicitly a retirement community, but it is definitely retirement friendly.

So, a few months ago I reserved 6 condos and got to work planning.  I knew that the condos were not big enough for all of us to sew in, and I reserved the classroom in the community center for three days.  I ended up limiting the attendance to just 12, including myself, because I was concerned about having enough room for all of us to be comfortable sewing in the classroom.  Each person had a 6 foot table, and there was plenty of room for 3 cutting mats and 4 irons.  Perfect size, and no electrical problems!

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Not everyone knew each other before the retreat, but the beauty of a small group like this is the opportunity to chat on a more personal level with other people in our sewing community.  There was a wide range of personalities and ideologies, and it made for some fascinating conversations throughout the days and nights.
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Machine name tags helped with getting to know your sewing neighbor, but putting them on the handwheel certainly made them more entertaining.  If you don’t believe me, just try it sometime.  I had prepared and brought several games to play throughout the getaway, but in the end decided to keep things simple.  We had several gifts donated by Rana from Sewn Into the Fabric, some of which were part of daily treats, like this dang cute pumpkin pin cushion called Big Delores, and some were drawn for.

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One game we did play was to find the blue Peanut M&M.  Before heading to the retreat, I sorted 12 pounds of Peanut M&Ms by color, and hid a blue one in one of the jars.  The one to find it won the first prize of the week- a Seymore Bones kit from Rana!  Kris didn’t miss a beat and immediately dumped out his jar of M&Ms and found the blue one…

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That started the drawings that went on throughout the retreat.  Kris drew the name of the next winner, and then also drew what prize they got.  We had another Seymore Bones kit, three copies of “Simply Strings,” also by Rana, and several boxes of Wonder Clips by Clover.

I didn’t get pictures of every project that was made or worked on, but I got a few.  Here’s just a snippet of what some of us were working on…

During the planning process I found that I was less than excited about catering options, so I decided to cook for all of us.  Preparing food for 12 can seem daunting in some ways, but really, I come from/have a large family, so I am pretty accustomed to cooking for a crowd.  I don’t consider myself to be an especially impressive cook, or excessively healthy, but I feel like I do okay in the kitchen and I have learned a lot about improving my own nutrition over the last several months.  I checked with everyone for any special needs, then set a menu based on meals that I’ve made for my own family before.  Most of the shopping had to be done ahead of time, so my car was incredibly weighed down on the drive to Crossville!

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We ate at my condo because, well, I hate food near fabric!  Snacks are okay, but it really does bug me to sit in front of my machine with a plate of food.  The sewing room was just under a mile away from the condos, so most of us drove back and forth for lunch and dinner.  But the weather was PERFECT for a walk, as well.  I served the same way I do in my own home- countertop buffet style.  I also dislike a lot of garbage, so we used real plates and glasses and I washed cloth napkins between each meal.  I very much enjoyed cooking for everyone, and with a little preparation it wasn’t nearly as much work as it could have been!

Monday:  Lunch- Green Veggie Minestrone with salad bar; Dinner- Acorn squash with sausage, apples, and kale, roasted broccoli, and salad

Tuesday:  Lunch- Salad and sandwich bar; Dinner- Lemon rosemary chicken with brown rice, roasted asparagus, muffins and raw veggies

Wednesday:  Lunch- Sandwich and salad bar; Dinner- Pork roast and apples with roasted mixed veggies and raw veggies

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Several of us also took a minute or two to visit some of the local establishments, like Little Blessings Quilt Shop in Crossville, and Gina’s Bernina in Knoxville.  This fabulous yarn shop was just a few miles down the road from the resort, and I was glad to have the chance to stop in at the Yarn Patch.  It’s a lovely shop, to say the least, and I didn’t have to look to hard to find something to take home with me.  I was especially impressed with the person working there, who I assume is the owner.  She handled her customers beautifully- gently guiding them as needed, and letting them wander as desired.  It really was a pleasure to shop there, and I hope to support this shop again sometime in the future.

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And just like that, it was all over.  The weather was wonderful.  The accommodations were perfect- including the enormous mirrored bathtub/shower in every unit- haha!  But the best part was the company.

Until next time…

Love All Around- The Block

Last week my sweet friend, Lee Monroe- aka May Chappell, sent me a note asking if I could do a little something for her. I would have likely said of course no matter what she asked, but I was especially grateful to be asked to be a part of making her Love All Around block.

One thing I’ve learned from my faith is to make the most of all that is good, and to minimize the power of all that is negative. And let’s face it, there is a lot of negative out there.

Don’t misunderstand me. In no way am I implying that sticking one’s head in the sand is the way to go.  Pretending all is well when it isn’t simply allows the thing to stick around, or worse, become more powerful. It takes purposeful action to make a difference. Everything we say and do begs the question, “Is this making the situation better, or worse?”

I have to be honest. I am excessively sensitive. I get overwhelmed by all of the negativity that hits me in the face everyday. It makes my chest feel heavy, and I have to take a minute to remind myself of all that is truly good and beautiful in the world.

But that’s the thing that’s so amazing. It turns out that there are way more beautiful and wonderful and happy and positive and loving things and people in the world than there are hateful, sad and negative. Really.  There are. And the great part is that the more you fill the world with genuine kindness and love, the less room there is for the other stuff.

I know that sometimes we hurt. Deeply. And sometimes we are afraid. Often with good cause. Both hurt and fear are powerful reactions, and both can lead to anger and hate.

We can’t help being hurt. We can’t help being afraid. That’s just part of being human.  But we can stop from being angry, and especially from hating.

There’s a moment when we decide. When we choose between peace and anger, between love and hate. That moment is where the power lies. That moment is when we begin to change the world.  For good or for bad.

So, maybe take a minute or two to slow down.  Maybe make this block, and allow yourself to think of ways you can be the one. And maybe you can also be reminded of what you already know.

Hack that Tote! By Mary Abreu

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It’s no oops, but she did do it again… Mary Abreu has released her third book, Hack that Tote, with Stash Books, a division of C&T Publishing.  Mary is an accomplished seamstress, working on and with projects ranging from a boutique movie production company to a wide range of sewing classes at Intown Quilters, a quilt shop in Atlanta, Georgia.  She has done multiple presentations on everything from pattern hacking to costuming at several pop culture conventions.  Her list of talents is long, and she actually is on her second career.  Her first was as an award-winning print journalist for almost two decades, so it is pretty natural for her to blend her sewing and writing talents.  Actually kind of a “duh” thing, if you think about it!

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Hack that Tote! feels like an extension of one of Mary’s classes.  She does a brilliant job of breaking down the basics of making a simple tote bag, and how knowledge of the parts makes it possible to create your own style of the whole.

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Think of your favorite bags, and maybe even your not-so-favorite bags.  Why do you feel that way about them?  What makes them good?  What makes them not?  Mary explores how to start with a basic shape and then, well, hack it to create the bag your heart truly desires.

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With a particularly helpful discussion on shape, interfacings and hardware, Hack that Tote! can help any maker to up their sewing game.  While the basic tote pattern along with ten tote hacks alone make this book worth having, the descriptions of how to work with the elements of bag making make it worth keeping for a long-term reference guide.

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My favorite of the Hack that Tote! patterns is the Tubular Frame Purse, which Mary will be coming to teach at The Green Apricot Studio on Saturday, January 14, 2017.  I’ve seen this bag in person, and I love the length of the handles, the zipper pocket, and the use of an enclosed tubular purse frame.  After reading through the book, I can easily see how the pattern is based on a simple tote, and it gives me ideas for future projects.  Having said that, I am still excited to have Mary come to teach in the studio.  It always amazes me how much I can learn simply by being with other makers, and I don’t believe we can ever stop learning from each other!

Interested in Mary’s other publications?  Here they are, along with a fabulous photo of Mary herself in one of her amazing costumes…

Piecing with Patty

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Here’s the thing.  There really are rules to follow.  And there really are rules to be broken.

To me, one of the wonderful aspects of any art or craft is taking the wildness of creativity and mixing it with the rules of skill.  Notice I did not say taming it with the rules of skill.

Understanding the medium, the tools used, and the variety of desired outcomes means knowing how to bend all of those to the will of creativity.  One may begin by bending inspiration to skill in the process of learning, but eventually, the goal can be the other way around.

Enter Patty Murphy, author of recently released Piecing Makeover: Simple Tricks to Fine-Tune Your Patchwork from C&T Publishing.  This book is an excellent source for everyone from less experienced quilters to those who have been around the block a few times.  It addresses basic construction as well as how to deal with precision issues.  In other words, it gives all the rules, which in the end, gives all the freedom.

Speaking of freedom, how about a bit of improvisational quilting with Patty?  No, I am not confused.  Yes, I did just talk all about rules and block construction and avoiding issues, and yes, it does lead to improv.

I am really excited to host Patty at The Green Apricot Studio on December 3, 2016 for a workshop on her quilt, “Yes Ma’am!”  We’ll be exploring both improv and precision piecing, and talking about how to have quilt tops that extend into boarders.  We’ll discuss some of the pitfalls and how to avoid them.  And best of all, we’ll bust some of our stash while we are at it.

And we’ll find out the story behind the name of this quilt.  Because I really want to know.

Click here to register for “Yes Ma’am” with Patty Murphy, 12/3/16, 9am- 4pm.

From Piecing Makeover:  “Patty Murphy has been sewing since she was six years old.  The first thing she recalls making is a pink-and-white seersucker pillow with the word Dad crudely embroidered on it as a gift for her father on Father’s Day.  Fortunately for everyone, her sewing and quilting have greatly improved since then, and so has her gift giving.

Patty loves to share her craft with anyone that will listen, and she teaches regularly at Intown Quilters in Decatur, Georgia, so she can share her knowledge and support her fabric obsession.  Her work has been featured in several books, on the websites of major fabric manufacturers, on blogs, and in magazines, including an original quilt design for Intown Quilters that was featured on the cover of the Spring 2007 Quilt Sampler magazine.”

Quilt Market, Fall 2016, Houston, TX

I’m not 20 anymore.
If you know me personally, you know that most of my life I’ve had this strange obsession with acting older than I am.  However, how I feel after this past weekend at Quilt Market in Houston is no act!  Candy, soda, and very little sleep for days catches up to you hard when you are no longer 20.  Or 30.  Or, let’s be honest, 40.  I tried Persian food for the first time (amazing), had some of the best tacos of my life (Cuban style), and the kolaches and donuts were on point, but I should have considered more water.  I’d say I needed more sleep, but late-night time with sweet friends was totally worth feeling like I got hit by a truck.  And I’d do it all again.
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Market was really fabulous.  I’ve been several times before, but I’d have to say that I felt especially productive on this trip.  While yes, it is fun and exciting to see all the new everything, it is also a lot of investment, and takes a lot of focus to make the trip truly useful not only to the business you represent, but also to your clients and customers.  I hear a lot of people say they wish they could go, and I think they would think it is fun in a lot of ways, but reality is that it probably isn’t exactly what 0ne would expect it to be.
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For most business owners and representatives, Market begins with Schoolhouse.  It sounds like you go there and learn how to make stuff, but really, you go there to learn about new product lines and how to market them to customers.  Yes, you get to see a lot of the designers  and their work up close and personal, but honestly, the presentations have a tendency to be rushed, and are kind of just a series of sales pitches all day long.  There are some giveaways, piles of papers, and you go through a lot of business cards.
There isn’t a lot of actual shopping at Market, with the exception of Sample Spree. Sample Spree is in a lot of ways is like Black Friday at Wal-Mart in Smalltown, USA where every resident of the town is there because they have nowhere else to shop.  The purpose of Sample Spree is for businesses to get materials they need to introduce products to their customers before they actually get a shipment of goods.  It takes time and money for shops to make samples for lines of fabric, and the precuts available at Sample Spree make it so that they have what they need to make a sample before the fabric line comes to the shop.  As you may know, The Green Apricot doesn’t sell fabric lines, but what does happen here are workshops.  Workshops that I want people to be excited about.  So, most of the fabric I buy there is to drum up a bit of excitement about what is happening in the studio.  Having said that, I also buy some just because I like it, just like most everyone else there.  I also look for the new products I want to review for guild presentations and the like.  I can buy one or two of these at Sample Spree, but have to buy multiples on the Market floor.
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The Market floor is all about merchandising.  It’s all about getting businesses to buy quantities of all that is new.  Shopping at Market is not like shopping at Quilt Festival, or other shows.  Quantity is the name of the game, and taking a chance that from the thousands of offerings, you’ll be able to choose what your customers want and need and thereby keep your business profitable.  What will you do if you buy 15 yards of a fabric, and only 2 yards sell?  How about if you buy the whole line, which is more like 300 yards?  It’s a risky business, and it’s a lot of money.  Vendors know this, and they work hard to display the merchandise in a way that helps retailers to say, “Oh, I see how I could show that to my customer.  I see how I can demonstrate how to use that.”  Every stop at every booth involves questions like, “What’s your show special?  What are your minimums?  Shipping rates?  Are you with a distributor?”  And that’s after you’ve already talked with them about what exactly it is they are selling.
 In other words, yes, Quilt Market is a lot of fun.  And it’s inspiring.  And it’s overwhelming.  And it’s an opportunity.  And it’s an investment.  And it’s a lot of work.