Saturday, December 19, 2009

Life Totem

Here is my latest art quilt, Life Totem (23" X 71"). It all began in a fit exasperation, tired of the endless practical duties which had taken over my life. I needed to make a quilt! So I began by making flower and bug "parts" and rummaging through my file of orphaned shapes from old projects.

The totem idea has been brewing since the Garden of Shadows quilt, so it was a natural way to organize the composition. The colors came automatically and the fabrics shapes are all hand dyed cotton. The background is white brocade, which creates a white on white pattern as a contrast to the solid colored applique.

As I moved the shapes the characters began to take form. I enjoy imposing extreme discipline on unruly objects, as you may have noticed. I think this is also one of the reasons I like to design fabric, which is my first challenge for the new year.

Enjoy your blessings and take it easy this week, my friends. Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Santa's Workshop

I have just returned from an inspiring week in the Greenville Arms and the Hudson River Valley Fiber Art Workshop in Greenville, New York. They had a snow storm the day before I arrived, so it was a beautiful scene that greeted me. On top of that, I arrived just in time for one of Chef Mark LaPolla's delightful dinners. The next five days were spent in their studio, with a grand group of adventurous students. Good food, great company and comfortable, cozy surroundings made this week a real treat!

So I came home filled with inspiration, but now I have to rekindle the Christmas spirit and get in gear for the weeks to come. We have snow at home, too, so that helps to get in the holiday mood. I am determined to keep things simple this year and stick with the handmade pledge, so to the studio I go.

Santa's helpers, "Weaving the Web", have been here producing pillowcases to vend on their new Etsy site. They have come up with an impressive variety of new color combinations using fabrics from the Sassaman archives. Their taste is fun and modern and I enjoy seeing their vision take shape. So thanks to these busy elves, you can still give unique handmade gifts, even if you don't have time to make them yourself.

The kids resourcefulness has encouraged me to get into the act, too. Above you see pillowcases made in two colorways of the new Sunshine and Shadow fabric for FreeSpirit. The designs and colors this season are very romantic and a bit decadent and lend themselves to many home decorating projects.

The Periwinkle color group, above, is the most mysterious. It makes me think of a Victorian sitting room where Sherlock Holmes would be lounging in a velvet smoking jacket and cap.

There is nothing so subtle about this graphic set of cases! But I love them for their electricity and energy. You could change the middle accent stripe to almost any, pink, green and the results would be just as dramatic.

The final pair is made from last season's Prairie Gothic. The checks make these combinations especially refreshing. The bugs would be perfect when the grandsons sleep-over and the coneflowers would be nice for anyone, in fact, I have a set of these on my own bed this week.

The time is whizzing by and there is still lots to do. But it is a joy to be home in our winter wonderland and fondling fabric in the studio again!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More Merry "Making"!

I am hoping that you all survived Thanksgiving and are in the mood for some more holiday merry making. So here is another little idea to add to your crafty gift list. Pot holders are a great excuse to bust into your fabric stash and satisfy your fabric fondling needs on a cold winter's day.

My kitchen is tomato red and flows into an orange and yellow living room, so the fabric was chosen to match the color scheme. I began by making little 8" quilts by sandwiching the top fabric with batting and an ugly back fabric. Then I quilted through the layers with topstitching thread.

Next I covered the ugly back with an 8" square of red terry cloth cut from a cheap fluffy towel.
The binding is machine stitched, remembering that these are meant for use and will get dirty.
So no agonizing over perfection! This would be a perfect use for novelty fabrics, too.

I also want to share our new "Spider" chairs with you. This is one of a pair of walnut
mid-century modern chairs that we had refinished and reupholstered in the Teasel and Lace fabric from last seasons Prairie Gothic line for FreeSpirit. It is really a treat to have such
elegant pieces of furniture wearing my own fabric!

This chair has found a home in front of our red book case. Love the contrast! The extra pillow is for cat protection. As you can see, Pumpkin has already claimed this seat as her own.
Smart cat!!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pint Size Patterns

Today I am happy to introduce our new series of Pint Size Patterns! These economical little patterns are thanks to your persistent question, "Do you have a pattern for that?" Now I can say, "YES, YES, YES!"

The size of a greeting card, each pattern unfolds to reveal "user-friendly" directions for each fun project. Also included is a colored envelope for easy gift giving.

All instructions are easy and clear enough for beginning stitchers, but also entertaining enough for accomplished ones. The projects are classic and can be made again and again. I have made at least 30 pillowcases in the past year and as many napkins and contrasting napkin rings and plan to make more as Christmas gifts.

Pint Size Patterns are perfect for using new personality prints, like Sunshine and Shadow, but they are also great "stash busters" to use up that wonderful fabric on your shelf. In fact, that would make an inspiring gift for the young crafter... a pattern, a stack of fabulous fabric and some basic sewing supplies.

I have also found that these simple projects are great stress relievers, too. They are a nice excuse to spend an afternoon fondling fabric and combining colors... can't get better than that!
And you really need some new napkins to spice up that Thanksgiving buffet, don't you?

Like me, many of you have also made the "homemade pledge" for gift giving this year, and not only for your pocket book. There is nothing as special as a personalized gift made with loving hands and hearts.

So this is my gift to all crafters, an easy way to begin the "merry making" for a creative holiday season. In the next few weeks I will show more examples of each Pint Size Pattern made in a variety of moods and fabrics, so stay tuned.

For more information and inspiration, please visit

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Great Greenville Arms

When I woke up this snappy autumn morning I was happily reminded that I get to visit the cozy Greenville Arms 1889 Inn for my final workshop of the year. This will be my second stay and I can hardly wait. The Inn is owned and lovingly cared for by Kim and Mark LaPolla. Kim is a quilter and Mark is a Chef de Cuisine and they have combined their talents in this ideal venture.

They cater to an artistic and loyal clientele by hosting painting and fiber workshops all year round, the Hudson River Valley Art Workshops. Most guests are housed and very well fed in the historic inn during the week. The atmosphere is friendly, warm and comfortable and meals are sociable and delicious! Mark is also a Chocolatier, so there are other obvious advantages, too.

But the story just gets better. Here is the studio, behind the house, where all the workshops take place. Everyone has their own table and some elbow room, so the space is just the right size. You get to know your classmates very well by sharing meals, ideas and quilting techniques for 5 days. There are some classes that have a perfect chemistry and my class at the Greenville Arms was one of those!! So you can see why I am so anxious to return.

You can see our mutual affection in this happy picture. So if you have had a busy year, like I have, a pampered visit to the Greenville Arms in early December will have you revived to face the holidays and inspired for a new year of creative quilting. The dates are Dec. 6-12 and I hope to see some of you there!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Season for Reflection

Last week marked the culmination of several important events. The first was The International Quilt Market in Houston, which was early this year and had vendors scrambling to prepare their wares in time, including me! Here is a picture of my booth. I decided to be spare and modern this season, with just a black surround to show off the new fabric and patterns. (More about them next week!)

My sister was kind enough to take time off to help "mind the store". It was a nice opportunity to introduce her to the "wonderful world of quilting". The booth was perfectly positioned on a main isle, so even though I could not wander, I was able to greet all my friends as they happened by. As always, Houston Market was a grand time to reconnect, review and to see some extra ordinary quilts.

Many new projects were being promoted, of course. One of these was a new book by Eleanor Levie called Unforgettable Tote Bags. This is another of her collaborative projects in which she invited several quilters and designers to create or decorate a practical and ecological tote bag. Here is my contribution, a liner for your bike basket-very green-no plastic bags and no gas!

This design was inspired by the new European craze to personalize your bike with paint, flowers and found object collage. We used Prairie Gothic fabrics and plenty of Art Girlz felt beads, of which you can never have too many!

After my return from Market, the MetCap Bank hosted an opulent opening for my show. It was a dark and rainy night in Chicago, but the beautiful Tree Studios and so many old friends made it a night to remember! The work is on display through January 15, so please stop in if you have a chance.

So now I am sighing a breath of relief and trying to regroup for the next season of dreaming, designing and SEWING! I am taking the month of November to work on a new art quilt, which is much overdue and heavenly to be working on as we watch the autumn landscape make dramatic changes everyday!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A New Season of Possibilities

Hello, everyone! The Idea Book is back in gear after a busy summer and bursting with new projects and patterns to share with you. First of all, my new FreeSpirit fabric line will be

introduced at Houston Market this weekend. It is called "Sunshine & Shadow". The title, of course, is also the name of a traditional quilt design, but it also refers to the many moods of our Midwestern garden. You will see some of our favorite plants portrayed for this new season of sewing. For a sneak preview, visit my website.

Next I want to invite you all to visit my show of art quilts in the historic Tree Studios in downtown Chicago. Tree Studios is a lovingly restored building which once housed many famous local artists. This sizable show is a collection of many classic and seminal pieces from my quilting career, including the "Willow" quilt which was named "One of the Best American Quilts of the Century". It has not been shown publicly since the 1996 International Quilt Festival when it was awarded "Master of Contemporary Artistry".

The show will run through January 14 as part of Art Works Chicago: A Progressive Corporate Exhibition of Chicago, a program supported by MetCap Bank to feature exhibitions of work by prominent Chicago-based artists displayed in the workplace setting.

To see the show, please stop by the Metropolitan Capital Bank at Nine East Ontario during business hours or call for an appointment, 312-640-2300. I encourage you to collect a group of friends and make a day of it... great city shopping near by!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Domestic Goddesses & Fair Weather Fashions

This has been an unusual spring in the Midwest. There has been cool weather and lots of rain. Most gardens are a month behind and many of the vegetables (and their tenders) are depressed from the lack of sunshine. It was pouring rain on the Fourth of July, only to clear up in time for the fireworks. But we have managed to take some pictures to share with you between cloud bursts.

First Willow and Claire model two aprons based on classic vintage patterns. We have combined several lines of Sassaman fabric to create a comforting old-fashioned style. Both designs are very practical with their roomy pockets and ties at the waist make for an easy fit.

The bias edges and the checkered lining in the pockets really add up to a delightful garment!
You may have some of this fabric in your stash... it is from my first FreeSpirit collection, Jane's
Exotic Garden. It is very satisfying to to see all the collections playing so nicely together.

This apron makes me think of the "ideal" housewives of the 1950's and black and white movies like Mildred Pierce and The Egg and I! I can just see Claudette Colbert and Joan Crawford reaching to tie the strings in the back. The gingham check is from the current Prairie Gothic line and the floral print is from last seasons, Hothouse Garden.

But, of course, it is the rick rack that really adds the vintage kitchen flavor. So even if you spend more time quilting than cooking and cleaning, this apron will make you look like a domestic goddess!

Next we have several summery blouses to show-off. The pink button-up is a ready made garment which we jazzed up with a simple ruffle of pink Queen Anne's Lace. All the other peasant style shirts are made from Simplicity 2706 and an ancient pattern, McCall's 5116, from high school days. This black blouse is one of my favorites because it has a retro look, too. The black gingham mixes nicely with the floral yoke and ruffled cap sleeves. 

I dug through my stash to find quaint fabrics to mix with my prints for this project... fabrics that reminded me of childhood like dotted Swiss and seersucker. Claire and Willie look cool and comfortable in these pastel frock tops. Again, the rick rack trim on the neckline and sunflower pocket add to the mood of innocence.

I chose both patterns as a way to feature a large print without overwhelming the entire garment or the person wearing it. These two feminine blouses illustrate the idea nicely. 

Finally the sun peeks between the clouds and the girls take advantage of the welcoming warmth, just what these blouses are designed for... airy, cotton comfy, and colorful on a hot summer day. I quite like the refreshing fabric combinations here. Both tops show off fabrics from the Hothouse collection.

Focusing in on the details, the cap sleeves are like little umbrellas to protect those white shoulders from the sun rays. The ruffles add a girlish tickle in the front shirt, while the square yoke and sleeve, in back, have a crisper, more contemporary look.

Finally, Claire wears a quiet and comfortable variation which uses a creamy soft waffle knit bodice with the subtle dusky Teasel and Lace print from the Prairie Gothic collection. I love the
architectural sleeve. Below, see the lovely detail on the back.

I hope these photos inspire you to do some mixing and matching in your summer sewing! And I hope I can figure out why this text is suddenly underlined!!!!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Project Potpourri

There has been lots of activity here that has not been reflected on the blog lately. Sorry about that! Confidentially, I have been scheming on a new book and much energy has been devoted to that purpose. I have also reviewed and approved the strike-offs for the next fabric line which is called Sunshine and Shadow, so my mind is racing with possibilities for using the new designs and colors.

In the mean time, Prairie Gothic continues to inspire us to create more fun projects. One of my favorites has been these delightful tea cozies. Everyone who sees them in the studio immediately puts them on their head, myself included. So perhaps we will have to make some smaller versions for human ornamentation. The cozies are made of four panels with a finishing band at the bottom. But best of all is the fancy topper made with a yo-yo and two ArtGirlz felt beads.

This vintage Sassaman fabric works wonderfully with a hydrangea featured in each panel. The purple band at the bottom grounds the design and adds a little extra weight to keep out the cold air. The topper is especially fun in these lively colors! Thanks to Super Susan, my assistant for perfecting this delightful pattern!

I have also done some teaching this summer.  At the Genesee Valley Quilt Show in Rochester, New York, I was lucky to reconnect with one of my former students, Martha Lorshbaugh. She got extra points in class for wearing a skirt made from this seasons Sunflower fabric!!!!!! 
I am susceptible to "buttering-up". Thank you, Martha, you made my day!

Another friend, Pam Matthews of Pam Matthews Designs sent me this photo of a fresh new bag idea using the Coneflower fabric on the outside and lined in pink Bird's Eye. The bright lining makes everything easier to find in a deep bag.

Next we have two new quilts which exploit the kaleidoscopic potential of the symmetrical Prairie Gothic fabrics. Melissa Peda calls this piece, Midnight Queen. It is a glowing combination of color and graphics. I like the way the composition radiates from the complex center to a quieter border.

Melissa has also created this refined kaleidoscope wall hanging, below, Dusky Mandala. The Teasel fabric in the center actually seems to blend into the surrounding dots. She has used the sprinkling of white in the two outer borders to great advantage, too. Look closely because she has also appliqued some critters here and there!

Thanks to all my buddies for applying their energy and skill to these Sassaman fabrics. I am a lucky girl to have so many talented friends!!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Graduation Day

I have been on "spring break" for the month of May. In this pleasant recess from travel I have been able to revel in the fresh breezes of a new season which has been prolonged by coolness and rain. The shade plants are having a robust celebration... the iris, hosta, trillium and columbine are proudly presenting themselves. Between rain drops, Greg has finally prepared the vegetable garden and planted the tomatoes, peppers, squash and other delights. Greg's helper, Pumpkin, takes time out to be the Queen of the Green, above.

This Columbine plays host every year and greets all our visitors at the front door. She is especially happy this season. She looks like a marvelous floral chandelier with all those dangling blossoms. And she shows nicely next to the newly painted house.

In the midst of all this merry making, we have a few other things to celebrate, too! We have a niece graduating from high school and a nephew graduating from 8th grade. One of my favorite high school graduation gifts was a set of sheets and towels (of my very own!) to take off to college. It was a symbol of my independence and potential... a "new beginning" present. 

So, I am doing the same for my niece, who is will begin college in Florida this fall. But, of course, this gift has to be personalized and I know Maddie loves the color orange, so ORANGE it is! I started by making her two coordinating pillows, both with a little turquoise for balance.

Then we purchased a set of very orange towels to decorate with appliqued ribbons in one of the same pillow fabrics. I used turquoise top stitching thread on both edges to jazz it up. The fabric is from last season's Hothouse line for FreeSpirit.

Since we know she will be spending lots of time at the beach, poor thing, we threw in a beach towel and I appliqued a butterfly in one corner. Here a froggy friend enjoys a sun bath before it all gets wrapped up in ribbon and tissue. I hope that she enjoys using them as much as I enjoyed making them!

What about the nephew, you ask? He already has an Aunt Jane pillowcase, but I may make him another with an iTunes coupon attached.

My teaching schedule sabbatical ends tomorrow, so today I will absorb as much spring as possible! It looks as if the sun will be shining and the breezes cool. A perfect spring day!