East Dakota Quilter


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Exploring Quilt Shops Near Madison, Wisconsin

I had a fantastic weekend. My boyfriend and I decided to get out of the city. Since we didn’t want to spend the whole weekend driving, we settled on nearby Madison, Wisconsin. Most of our weekend activities don’t really relate to this blog: we ate at cute restaurants, went to a museum, walked through the capitol building and the university arboretum, etc. But I did squeeze in a few minutes at two of Madison’s fabric stores: the Sewcial Lounge and Mill House Quilts.

Madison_Medley by EastDakotaQuilter

I regularly check the blog In Color Order. The blog’s author teaches classes at the Sewcial Lounge, which is how I heard of the store. I was excited to visit a store specializing in modern fabrics. In fact, the shop doesn’t bother with any non-modern prints! It was nice not to sort through “filler fabrics.” I expected the store to contain a lot of fabrics with a small sewing space, but quite a large portion of the space was a dedicated sewing area/lounge. The small shop was bustling when I went in, so it seems I was not the only one who appreciated the fun colors! I especially liked a print with small houses and cats (which I thought they were foxes at first). I’m kicking myself for not getting at least a small piece since it’s not on their website and I haven’t been able to identify the fabric with Google since returning home. This might warrant a phone call at some point…

Comparatively, Mill House Quilts is enormous. I don’t know why I don’t remember seeing them at the Quilt Expo last September. Maybe their booth was so full of people that I decided not to stop, or maybe the fabric selection was so wide that I felt overwhelmed. Maybe I got distracted by coffee… In any case, I see the sign every time I drive from Chicago to visit my parents in South Dakota, only I don’t want to make the ten-and-a-half hour drive take longer than necessary. I was glad for a chance to stop without cutting into family time.

mill house snowman

The store was frankly even better than I’d expected. Again, I was expecting some kind of megastore the size of a warehouse. It wasn’t that. But it was still the biggest fabric store I’ve seen that wasn’t a Joann’s, and I would have been happy to receive as a gift almost any fabric in that store. There were dedicated areas for civil war prints, modern fabrics, batiks, etc. There was a whole room full of sale fabrics. I think the best part, though, was the variety of quilts hanging from the rafters of the store. There were many styles, many colors, and it SO made me want to go home and start a new project! I took a brochure with me and was a little awed by the large number of classes. I only wish I lived closer (and didn’t spend 3 hours a day in commuter traffic already) so I could attend some of them!

DMC floss at MillHouseQuilts by EastDakotaQuilter

modern brights at MillHouseQuilts by EastDakotaQuilter

MillHouseQuilts sample by EastDakotaQuilter

MillHouseQuilts civil war section by EastDakotaQuilter

EastDakotaQuilter purchases at MillHouseQuilts

Okay, so I broke down and bought a few red and white fabrics for an idea that’s been percolating–even though I’m not finished with the myriad other projects I’ve started. That’s me standing outside the store with my purchases!

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[Needle]working Through Grief

I didn’t post last week because I was home for my grandma’s funeral. Although I am still grieving, it was nice to see family, and I was so glad I worked on putting photos into albums the week before. My grandma’s next-oldest sister was able to identify most of the people in the hundreds of photos, including some from the early 1900s! Having the photos on pages we could flip through made for quick work, and I’m sure it meant getting through photos we wouldn’t have had time for otherwise.

double wedding 1924

war era grandparents

This past weekend, I really craved quiet time, but I didn’t want to sit around my apartment and dwell on things. My boyfriend suggested we go to his former professor’s second home in South Haven, Michigan. It was perfect. I worked on embroidering the first block of my barn quilt while it snowed Saturday morning. We also visited the town’s lighthouse and kitschy/antique shops.

embroidering in South Haven

lighthouse

After I dropped Johann at his dad’s house Sunday evening, I went home and worked on two new blocks for my sampler quilt. I hurried home after work again yesterday to add four more. (Note the ironing board cover has been updated since the Sunday Brunch Jacket.)

6 new blocks

Looking back over the past two weeks of projects, the embroidery especially was therapeutic at a difficult time. As an added bonus, some of the photos I shared at my grandma’s funeral are ideal candidates for my barn quilt, now that I know what they depict.


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Quilt Expo – Madison, Wisconsin

A month or so ago, I received a spam message in my work inbox that was forwarded from a legal organization I belong to. The solicitation related to a quilt expo in Madison, Wisconsin. It’s probably the only spam message I’ve ever appreciated.

I thought about the message for a long time. Given how short a time I’ve been making quilts and the limit of my skill so far, it seemed like a bit of a stretch that I’d need to attend a quilt expo to get ideas. Not to mention the fact that I just started a project that could easily take me 10 years to complete. I discarded all these arguments because Madison sounded like a really nice city to visit for a quick overnight trip. Entrance wasn’t expensive, and since I work in the suburbs an hour and a half from my Chicago apartment, I reasoned I’d already be almost halfway if I left from the office Friday afternoon. I really just wanted to see what colors and patterns other people use–beyond an internet search, which has been my only experience so far–and this seemed like a fun opportunity to do so.

I felt a little out of sorts when I arrived. Everyone else came with at least one other person. I didn’t know where to begin, and I didn’t have an expert with me to consult (or even someone whose presence would force me to pretend I knew what I was doing). Luckily, the quilt contest exhibit was right by the front entrance. I decided to start there.

WOW! I saw hand quilting, machine quilting, appliqué–you name it! And these weren’t lazy quilters like I am. My favorite was a quilt that won third place in its category, Dreaming in Color by Dorinda Evans of Madison, Wisconsin:

I also loved this border on a quilt called Tangerine Rose by Lynn Droege of Overland Park, Kansas:

This quilt (Geisha Fans by Barbara Fuller of Baraboo, Wisconsin) mixed quarter Dresden blocks with normal, square blocks, which I thought was interesting:

This quilt, Chicken Soup by Sheila Hixon of Lakewood, Wisconsin, made me laugh more loudly than was appropriate at the expo:

Another of my favorites was an embroidered-block quilt called Barns of Wisconsin by Sue Brooks of North Freedom, Wisconsin:

Here are some close-ups of the detail in her quilt:

I bought some embroidery patterns from a vendor that are in a similar style. My plan is to review the templates and use them as a stylistic framework to create my own patterns of barns and farmhouses that were part of my childhood. This was based on the success of my first-ever embroidery project, which I began in my hotel room the night before the expo. When could someone ever be more excited about quilting than the night before a quilt expo?! But I didn’t want to lug my sewing machine with me, so I needed a more mobile project that would expend my extra creative energy. There’s a block of my newest quilt that had a letter “B” on the layout I drew. I figured if I gave the quilt as a gift, that would be a great place to embroider the couple’s name, and since my boyfriend’s last name starts with B and most of his siblings are unmarried, they seemed like likely candidates. Then I got more realistic and thought how hard it would be to part with a quilt after making dozens of personalized blocks. So I picked a pattern I liked for myself instead, Sarah Jane Studio‘s October–which matches the autumn theme of my quilt colors.

After I finished looking at the contest exhibit, I had just enough time for coffee before I went to Nancy Zieman’s class: Nancy’s 30 Favorite Sewing & Quilting Techniques. My mom learned how to sew by watching PBS’s Sewing with Nancy, so I had all the giddiness of someone about to meet a favorite celebrity.

And she was funny! Some of my favorite moments:

Nancy commented on the course title. She said, “Some of these tips are better than others. With 30, they won’t all be winners!”

Nancy said her favorite method of organizing projects is to roll the pieces of fabric into a large towel so they don’t get crease marks. An audience member jokingly asked, “How many towels do you have, Nancy?” Nancy responded, “Only *I* know that!”

At the end of the presentation, I even helped take down the quilt that was a backdrop for her presentation! That’s right: I touched a quilt Nancy sewed! Haha. She was gracious enough to take a photo with me before I left, too.

After class, I walked up and down the rows of stalls. I saw lots of cool things and eavesdropped on more than a handful of conversations. I overheard one lady say to her friend, “There’s a light-up quilt. I guess that’s the new thing this year.” I thought to myself, “Yikes! I don’t even know what the old thing is!”

I need to learn how to use wool and felted wool. There was lots of it, and it was so pretty!

My favorite booth was for a store called Primitive Gatherings. They had such a fantastically gorgeous selection of fabrics. When I walked past on the way to Nancy’s class, I stopped a few seconds to grab a business card (well, slip of paper) and drink in the colors. Afterward, I was surprised there was a line just to get into the booth! A lady walking by said, “That makes sense. It’s all in the name.” Apparently, this place is famous. I bought a bunch of fabrics for the back side of my Dear Jane quilt. Since I’m thinking of doing quilt-as-you-go, I could make each square a different fabric. They’re so pretty, maybe I’ll even use that side as the front!

I was disappointed when the $60 I spent didn’t get me one of their printed bags. This is actually very stupid. I mean, I have a ton of printed bags. I usually avoid getting more because I don’t want to store them. But the salesperson told another woman she had to carry the bag with the logo out, and then I unconsciously waited for him to tell me the same thing when I made my purchase. (I was browsing when the other woman checked out.) No luck! Like I said, I shouldn’t have been disappointed because I don’t really need another bag. And with as popular as they are, it would’ve been impractical for them to print bags for every customer, regardless how little each spent. I get it.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the booth itself. I asked if I could take a photo and was told I couldn’t. But it was the absolute nicest way to be turned down. The salesguy looked a little uncomfortable when I asked, frowned a little. “It’s okay if I can’t,” I said. “I understand you’d want to protect your brand image.” He looked relieved. “Sorry,” he said. “Boss’ orders.” He could’ve just said no. Instead, he looked like he wanted to say yes and was struggling because he couldn’t. I don’t care if he was the boss and it was his own decision, it was nice of him to humor me like that! And I really can’t fault anyone for wanting to control their own branding. What I do have a photo of is the fabric I purchased from them:

Shopped out, I went to the extension part of the quilt exhibit to look around. Again, the quilts were a lot more elaborate than anything I could (or would choose to) make with my old, very plain sewing machine. Here were some highlights:

Not A Farmer’s Wife by Carolyn Vogel

Goodnight Sweetheart by Jean Lohmar

I left fairly early. I was glad not to have to wait around for an expo partner and congratulated myself for having decided to go alone, after all.

The weather was fantastic. I thought about driving straight home, but I didn’t want to waste such beautiful daylight hours. Instead, I drove to the capitol building in Madison and sat outside on a bench, working at my embroidery piece:

I had a great day and am glad I went to the expo. In the end, I think the target audience is people who are much more into quilting and batik fabrics than I am, but it was still a nice way to see a wide variety of fabrics all at once. Would I consider going again? I really don’t know. But I couldn’t have asked for a better first quilt expo experience!


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Farmhouse Baby Quilt

I loved having lots of cousins growing up, but, like most families, not all my cousins lived nearby.  My grandma moved to South Dakota from Michigan in 1956, so much of her family is still there (or at least not in South Dakota). My Great Aunt Andrea and Tolerable Uncle Henry, as he calls himself, did an amazing job of road tripping to visit us every few years. It’s for that reason alone that I am at least familiar with my cousins from that side of the family.

It was probably 4-5 years after I moved to Chicago that it dawned on me how easy it would be to visit family in Michigan. Until that point, I was amazed every time I learned some other city was within road trip distance. I decided to make an effort to visit more often. I attended a few weddings, went to the Greenfield Village Halloween event, and recently celebrated the pending births of the new generation of cousins. I stayed with a cousin I didn’t know well but whom I found is living the life I’ve planned for myself in a few years: farmhouse, a few animals, small acreage very near civilization. (In other words, not at all the hardworking farms from back home, but the fun kind.)

The baby shower gifts I gave were a product of work-related travel: gift cards–versus the baby blankets I wanted to make but didn’t have time to begin, much less complete, when I was away from home almost every weekend for several months. Of course, since planning the colors and design is the most fun part of making a project, I had already started gathering supplies. My favorites were for the cousin I stayed with. I’d selected various shades of blue and gray. I didn’t know the gender of the baby and hoped she’d be okay with blue even if she had a girl. Not that it’s a problem when you don’t complete a project. I was disappointed I’d put so much thought into a project that seemed like it would probably never be finished.

Then I stayed in her guest room, which was converted into a nursery shortly after I left. It’s blue. And the hourglass pattern I selected seemed to fit the beautifully renovated farmhouse perfectly. So I decided to finish the baby blanket as a hostess gift. You can find the sites that inspired me here (Purl Bee) and here (Diary of a Quilter). My project:

A word on pressing: I found the layers started getting thick, which resulted in my thread breaking repeatedly. A friend told me it’s a good idea to press the edges to one side instead of pressing seams open because it strengthens the quilt and makes it last longer. I continued to press edges to one side, but I pressed the edges for each piece to a different side:

And a word on binding: I followed the Purl Bee’s tutorial for the most part. However, I find that corners can be a little difficult. I have a tough time sewing to ¼ inch, even if I use a marker to show where I should stop sewing. I’ve been marking the spot instead with a pin, sewing right up to it and then reversing the machine, and that works well for me.

And here is the finished product:

By the way, it’s a girl!