Wisconsin Fabric Fun

olivejuice1Last week was my somewhat annual fall trip to Wisconsin. The weather was gorgeous, and while the leaves had only begun to turn, the bright blue skies helped it feel very autumnal.

While I was there, Mom and I managed to work in some fabric fun. First, we traveled the hour down to Ripon, Wisconsin, and went to Bungalow Quilting and Yarn. Mom had been to the shop once before and thought it would be one that I would like. Wow, was she right!

bungalow5The house was packed with yarn and fabric. I liked that the fabrics felt very curated, like someone took time to purchase just the right ones. Most of them would be considered modern fabrics, but there were a few batiks and novelties thrown in there, too.

bungalow6 And I couldn’t help but love the Wisconsin quilt they had on display.

bungalow2Even the bathroom was a feast for the eyes, from the sewing pattern wallpaper to the bathtub filled with yarn.


bungalow4I was so overwhelmed by the choices (and the fact that we were a bit pressed for time) that I ended up purchasing large cuts of a couple fabrics that I like to have in my stash along with a few new pieces.

bungalow1(I put that green Lizzy House cat fabric in everything.)

Later in the week, we made our way to the western edge of the state, where our first stop was at Olive Juice Quilts in Onalaska, Wisconsin.

olivejuice2This super cute shop was actually huge inside. The fabrics, again, were primarily modern, but they had sections for Christmas prints and reproductions, too.



olivejuice6And they had fat quarters cut of a vast majority of their fabrics. I find I really appreciate having fat quarters available, especially when I’m visiting far-away shops, because I often don’t have a specific project in mind and just want to try a little bit of a lot of things.

olivejuice7(Although my choices do look pretty coordinated, don’t they?)

While we were there, we picked up our reserved copies of Kaffe Fassett’s Bold Blooms (a book I actually worked on for ABRAMS) because that evening we were going to a lecture with Kaffe and Brandon Mably. We even boldly interrupted Kaffe while he was working on some needlepoint there at the shop to ask him to sign it.


boldbloomsinterior After bumming around La Crosse a bit, enjoying the lovely day, we headed back downtown for the lecture. Olive Juice Quilts had a nice little shop set up with Kaffe fabrics and books, and we even got goodies for attending the lecture: a magazine and fat quarter.

Brandon gave a short introduction and Kaffe came on and talked about how he moved to England and got started designing. Then he narrated a slide show that included a lot of interesting inspiration photos, behind-the-scenes shots from photo shoots, and finished projects along with some that are still in the works.

Afterward there was a signing session, and Mom got another book signed. This photo was taken right after Kaffe complimented Mom on her jacket (!)—a great way to cap off fabric fun with my mom.


Wisconsin Fun

Herrschners fabric

Earlier this month, I spent several days up in Wisconsin, at Mom and Dad’s, hanging out with family and friends. The day after I got there, Mom and I headed to the Herrschners warehouse sale. She and I went a few years ago, and I was excited to go again. Everything, including yarn and fabric, is nicely discounted, and you never know the treasures you’ll find.

Herrschners yarn

I didn’t find any yarn that caught my eye this time (which is fine since I’m still working through my yarn from last time), but I did buy a bit of fabric. It’s hard to pass up fabric at $4.99 a yard.

Herrschner fabric purchase

The first fabric on the left is for a Quilts of Valor project I hope to start soon; the next two are great boy fabrics for charity quilts; and the rest are just for me.

Moms next quilt

It wasn’t long after we got home that Mom started planning her next quilt with some of the fabrics she picked up at the sale and some from her stash.

The next day my sister Carrie and her husband Doug and my sister Jenny and her two kids came for the weekend. I noticed my niece Stella (age six) was carrying around a book she had made. She’d thumb through it every once in a while at Mom and Dad’s.

Fashion bookFashion book 2Fashion book 3

It turned out to be a fashion book. The top photo is the cover; the next one is my favorite drawing in the book (I like the lights and the pattern on the dress); and the last one is one of Stella’s favorite drawings (her other favorite drawing is also of Elsa from Frozen). It was so fun to page through it and see all her creations. She’s got a great sense of color already.

It wouldn’t be a trip to Waupaca without at least one hike around “turtle lake” at Hartman Creek State Park. Near the lake is a small outdoor amphitheater that we always stop at first.

Ivan on stage

There Ivan performed a song from The Aristocats, the play he was in recently at school. Ivan played the head dog, and when he performed for us, he started with a bit of dialog to set the scene and then launched into his song. It was just like on a recording of a musical! For the play, the kids passed around a microphone, so that’s what Ivan is holding here.

Jenny on stage

For the last twenty years, at least, any time we come to this stage, Jenny performs a stirring recitation of the poem “Queen Anne’s Lace.” She first read the poem in one of our old Childcraft books.

Stella on trail

We didn’t see any turtles on the lake. But there were lots of dragonflies on the trail. And a silly six-year-old.

Hartmans spider

And a dam with a gigantic spider on an old piling.

Hartmans ferns

A few days later, Mom and Dad and I went back to the park to take the Allen Lake trail. I love the gorgeous ferns!

Birthday fabric

Finally, the weekend included a bit of a birthday celebration for me. My sister Carrie gave me a compact, absorbent towel for my car (with a “Don’t Panic” label on it, for all you Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy fans) and a lovely scarf. My sister Jenny let me select a piece of vintage fabric from a treasure trove of fabric she picked up at a yard sale. I selected this border print. I can’t decide if I’ll make a skirt or a quilt with it, but the piece is large enough for either.

It was a great trip, as usual. And I’m a lucky girl to have an awesome family I love hanging out with.

Christmas Quilt Pile

Quilt pile 1We’ve got temperatures well below zero here in Cincinnati today, so I thought it would be a good time to share some cozy photos from our Christmas in Wisconsin. It was pretty darn cold there at the time, and as I was sitting in Mom and Dad’s living room, I decided to count the number of quilts I could see. There were nine. Within eye-sight of that one room.

What would it be like, I wondered, to have all the quilts we could find in the house on top of a person? “Cover me up!,” said Greg as he hit the living room floor. Adam and Emma quickly joined in.

Quilt pile 2

The rules of the game were that I could pull only the quilts that were sitting out, not ones on the wall (which eliminated one from the living room) and not in storage in a closet or the pie safe. And the quilts all had to be made by Mom.

Quilt pile cross section

We ended up with 18 quilts piled on top of Greg and Emma (Adam bugged out after 15 when I announced that anyone under the quilts needed to help fold them when we were done). Greg declared it to be “eight pounds of coziness.”

We learned that Mom favors a cotton batting, although a few quilts had thicker polyester batting; the heaviest quilt is made of denim. We also learned that once you have 18 quilts piled on top of you, you can barely feel someone walking on you (regardless if the person doing the walking is 10 or 44).

Shopping in Memphis

sew memphis 3

This past weekend, seven of us from my family made our way down to Memphis, Tennessee, for a short vacation. It was the second music-focused vacation for a few of us (our first stop was Nashville several years ago already). But no matter what the focus of any vacation, there’s always time for a trip to a fabric store.

Mom and I both did a little research beforehand, looking for a good shop to try. Many of the more established stores are well outside town. And they were all very traditional. One even boasted that they didn’t carry any “garish” fabric. We kept looking.

Then we found Sew Memphis. It’s a little modern fabric store in the southern part of downtown Memphis, just an 8-minute drive from our hotel. The fabric displays are all adorable; they had found most of the display pieces at thrift stores, yard sales, or on the street.

sew memphis 1

sew memphis 2They also have a great workshop room; the day we were there, they had open studio where anyone can come in and get help on their projects. And while there aren’t a huge number of bolts, there is a nice selection of fabrics that both Mom and I loved. Here’s what I picked up.

sew memphis fabric

I’ve got a navy quilt in me somewhere, so I picked up a few fabrics that might go into that. And I got some orange to build up that nonexistent orange stash.

The next day, we walked down to Beale Street to do a little shopping. I honestly didn’t think I’d be blogging about any of the shops there, but then we came upon A. Schwab Dry Goods Store.

ASchwab 1

A pack of FreeSpirit pre-cuts in the window of the shop caught my eye, so we stopped in. And then the wonderfulness began.

ASchwab 2

This collection of reproduction antique toys is right inside the door.

ASchwab 4 Then Mom and I found the area where they had the fabric. It was all FreeSpirit pre-cuts, along with some FreeSpirit notebooks, cleverly displayed on an old fabric cutting table. The mechanism in the front measured the fabric and made a small cut where it was then torn to size.

ASchwab 5

They had some Moda Home items, too (I bought that compass napkin right there in front).

ASchwab 3

There was stuff for the men, too. As well as just a ton more of everything: shoes, dresses, sauces, candy, and much more. The building was awesome, too; it was three stories, and it looked like part of it was getting turned into a museum of retail. Just a super fun place to explore.

And finally, while this isn’t shopping related, I wanted to share this one picture from our tour of Graceland. It’s not real great (I’m still getting used to the camera on my phone, as you might have been able to tell from the shots above), but the room is covered in fabric. COVERED.


The walls and the ceiling use the same fabric, and the fabric is pleated on both. Over 300 yards of the fabric were used in the room. You can see on the couch, behind the pool table, there are throw pillows in coordinated fabric. Here’s a blog post from Threads with some better photos. Crazy cool.

Other highlights along the way included a tour of Sun Studio (my favorite tour of the trip), the Memphis Zoo, some great BBQ places, and some blues clubs. A great trip, indeed.

The Last of the Christmas Gifts

Growing up, I remember receiving gifts of gifts to come. The gift was fabric and a pattern. The gift to come was the skirt my mom would make for me. I pulled pretty close to that same thing on my niece Emma this Christmas.

Way back in November, I asked Emma if she would like me to make her a skirt for her Christmas gift. Being the sweet, crafty girl she is, she was all for it. So she and I went to the store, and she picked out a pattern and the fabric. Although Emma is 11 and quite petite, she really liked the adult patterns best.

Emma pattern

As with nearly everything I sew, this ended up being a learning experience. Did I learn that there was no way the skirt was going to take just the 1 hour advertised on the pattern? No, I knew that as soon as I bought it. What I learned was clothes really do need to be adjusted for petite people.

The version of this skirt that Emma received on Christmas Eve was the adult version in a size that was close to her size.  I had planned on taking it back when I gave it to her, but I needed to see just how off it was. The waistband and bow were huge compared to her tiny frame. I ended up nearly halving the width of the bow and waistband. Yeah, she’s pretty petite.

Emma skirt detail

She tried it on once more after Christmas to make sure the proportions were closer before I finished the sewing. Then, finally, last weekend, Emma got her finished skirt! She wanted to keep it long, and she’s got a bit of room to grow in the waist as well.

Emma skirt 2

Emma picked out the fabric herself. As we were getting it cut, I told her Grandma Rose was going to be pretty proud because Emma had picked out fabric covered with Grandma’s all-time favorite design motif: paisleys!

Finally, the last of my Christmas gifts was one I didn’t get a chance to photograph before I gave it. I made this paper-pieced mug rug as a hostess gift for my sister Brenda, Emma’s mom. I used the Quatrastar pattern from Sew Happy Geek, and it came together really quickly.

Brenda mug rug

So, that’s the end of my Christmas sewing! Next, onto new projects for 2013!

New York, New York: Fabric Shopping

My husband and I had a great time in New York the week of Thanksgiving. Such a great time, in fact, that I’m going to break the trip into two blog posts. This first one will be dedicated to my day fabric shopping in the big city. The next part will be about some of the visual inspiration we came upon in our travels.

Our first stop on shopping day was to The City Quilter. The store wasn’t even on my initial list of places to go because I thought it was too far from our hotel. But after talking to my mom before we left, I knew I had to see it. We walked the 20 short blocks from the hotel, since the weather was so nice, and it really wasn’t a bad trek. At least on the way there.

The shop was much larger than I would have guessed for Manhattan. And it was filled with wonderfulness (see photo above). I loved the little cubbies they had for the fat quarters between the shelves of bolts.

At the store I saw the Liberty of London fabrics for the first time in real life. Lovely, although I ended up buying one only after I had the idea of pairing it with some graphic shark fabric for a skirt for my sweet niece, Stella, the shark-lover. Here’s the selection of fabric I ended up buying.

I also liked that the store had a nice selection of New York-centric fabrics. I am a nerd, and I like to pick up fabrics unique to the areas to which I travel. And they carried the Cat Studio tea towels that I collect, too. My goal is to someday make a quilt of towels from all the places I’ve visited.

The employees at the shop were all very helpful and friendly. It was really a fun place to shop (although they could probably use another  husband/boyfriend chair).

The next stop for the day was Mood, the fabric store featured on Project Runway. I have never actually seen the show, but my sister and her nine-year-old son are fans, so we decided to go. Of all the places in New York that we went, this was the most New York. It had a crazy elevator with an attendant, the employees were fashiony and brusque (although some were very friendly), and it was bustling.

I have to admit, I was pretty intimidated and overwhelmed. My plan was to go there to find a wool with which to make a winter purse. And I did end up with a nice piece. But I think I selected it a bit too hastily. It doesn’t match any of my winter coats. Not that that should really matter, but it kind of does. Anyway.

The selection of trims was amazing, too. I loved looking at all the varieties, but I don’t use a lot in my sewing, so I ended up not getting any. This shop did have a table for husbands/boyfriends with a copy of the New York Post, so Greg was very entertained as I wandered.

Our final stop was the Tinsel Trading Company, a trim store that has a beautiful book titled French General: Treasured Notions. I didn’t take any photos at the store, but it was beautiful, glittery, vintage.

As we walked back to our hotel through the Garment District, we peered in the windows of many, many more fabric, trim and bead shops. And, I’m happy to report, I did see a few people wheeling carts loaded with bolts of fabric down the sidewalk. New Yorky!

Next time, I’ll share some photos of the things that inspired me visually as we walked around the city.

Pillow Block Quilt

I was in Wisconsin this past weekend, staying with my parents and visiting with family. One evening, my mom asked me to go into my old bedroom and get a quilt out of the closet. It’s been a while since I opened that closet, and of course, it’s filled with all new things since I left. But I was hit with wave of nostalgia when I saw this quilt that my grandmother—my mom’s mom—had made.

(Sorry for the weird light on the picture—the colors at the top are pretty close to accurate.)

I’m not sure what type of quilt it is, but for my purposes, I’ll call it a pillow block quilt. It’s the quilt I most associate with my Grandma Horvath—she made a bunch of them. Each square is sewn by machine on three sides, then a square of batting is inserted, and the fourth side is hand-sewn to the next piece, closing that fourth side in the process. So the blocks are kind of like individual pillows sewn together to make a quilt.

Over time, and with washings, some of the pieces of batting have gotten wadded up a bit, making those blocks look a little like raviolis. The brown and yellow fabric in the center of the quilt are the leftovers from a blouse my mom made for herself.

Instead of batting, some of the quilts have pieces of nylon stocking in each block. Grandma was using everything she had, and with herself and three daughters, she had a lot of old stockings. Note: quilts stuffed with nylon stockings are super heavy.

After a bit of searching around the house, I found another of these quilts that Grandma made. On this slightly smaller one, she sewed half-square triangles to the outside blocks to get straight edges on the quilt.

While I was in the Grandma Horvath frame of mind, I thought I would take a picture of Grandma glasses, too. My sisters and I fondly remember drinking from these glasses every time we visited Grandma. So when the time came to move Grandma from her apartment to a nursing home, we pretty much insisted Mom take the glasses. I love that the palette of the glasses is almost identical to that of the smaller quilt.

Grandma was probably best known, though, for her braided rugs. I couldn’t find any of those around my parents’ house to show—funny how they seemed to be everywhere at one time. But I’m hoping to track down a few for a future post. For now, I’ll raise my Grandma glass to toast my crafty Grandma Horvath.

Solids vs. Shot Cottons

Some members of the Cincinnati Modern Quilt Guild really know how to rock the solids. At show-and-tell, they share these amazing quilts they’ve made completely from solid fabrics. Bold, geometric designs with rich, solid colors. You’ll see what I mean by checking out this quilt from CMQG founder Heather Jones.

So when it came time to start a new quilt I had in mind, I decided I was going to use a solid for the background. I went down to Sewn Studio, which has a great selection of solids, and picked out two potential blues.

Lovely both. I ended up trying the darker of the two, and made a few blocks with the blue and my prints. And I didn’t like it. At all. There was something about those particular prints, maybe, and the blue combined that just looked flat to me. It was then I decided to take a look at my stash of “solids.”

It turns out, I don’t have a true solid in the lot. They are all shot cottons. Shot cottons are fabrics that are woven from threads dyed in small batches, so the tones will vary a bit within a bolt and could vary quiet a bit between bolts. Many shot cottons have different colored threads for the warp and the weft.

I’ve washed the fabric above, and you can really see the different thread colors that are woven to make each piece of shot cotton.

I’m pretty sure we can blame my mother for the fact that all my solids are Kaffe Fassett shot cottons from Westminster. She’s been a Kaffe Fassett fan from the very beginning, and when he came out with his shot cottons, she flipped for them. So when we’d be shopping together, I’d usually end up with a few in my bag, too.

I guess it’s not too surprising, then, that the solid blue fabrics just weren’t doing it for me. My next stop was the Fabric Shack. And there I found a blue that makes my heart sing.

Yes, the tone if very different from the solids blues I’d gotten earlier. And I see now that those tones weren’t quite what I needed. But I think the texture of the shot cotton has something to do with it, too. I just like the variation, the movement, the interest.

With rise of modern quilting and the heavy use of solid fabrics by those quilters, there are a lot more true solids on the market—many more than even just a few years ago. I know I’ll be unable to resist some of the colors, so I’m sure I’ll be bringing a few more home. And maybe I’ll even figure out a way to work them into my projects. But for now, I think I’m still a shot cotton gal.

Adventure Bag

When my husband and I went on a beach vacation earlier this year, I decided to make a summer tote bag to take along (here’s my blog post about that summer tote bag, part 1 and part 2). Now at the end of this month, we’re fortunate to be going on another significant adventure: an Alaskan cruise. And I decided to make a bag for this trip, too. An adventure bag!

Well, it’s really pretty much just a messenger bag, but I did add a lot of pockets. I got the measurements from this tutorial from Cold Hands Warm Heart. She also includes instructions for making the bag that I followed to some extent, but for the zippers, pockets, closure and strap, I turned to my trusted source, The Bag Making Bible by Lisa Lam. I tell you, I use this book all the time.

I added two zippered pockets to the bag (one on the interior and one on the exterior, under the flap) and one sectioned pocket on the interior.

For this bag, I used a magnetic closure for the first time. Again, I turned to The Bag Making Bible for instructions, and it really was easy to install, although getting it lined up on the bag was a little tough. I ended up kind of guessing, and I see in the picture above that not everything is exactly center. Oh, well.

I guessed, too, on the length of the strap, and I ended up getting the whole bag together before I realized it was  way too long. So I took it apart as much as I needed to remove the strap and shortened it by a full 7 inches (OK, it was a bad guess). My strap ended up being about 42 inches. While I had the strap off, I topstitched the long edges, something I had planned on doing but forgot. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in moving forward that I forget to pay attention to the details.

The exterior fabric was one that I found while I was in Wisconsin. My mother and I went to the Herrschners warehouse sale. (Here’s the blog post I wrote about my mom, Rose Doyle, including some of her quilts.) Herrschners is a catalog company headquartered in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and each year, they open their warehouse to the public for a tremendous sale. Tons of yarn, puzzles, needlepoint…and fabric. This is an Anna Maria Horner decorator weight fabric that I got for less than $4.00 per yard. Needless to say, I bought a lot of this and other fabrics, too. Plus a few skeins of yarn, just for fun.

I like the bag quite a bit. I have to say, though, that I would re-engineer the way the strap is attached, should I make this bag again. Right now, the strap and the flap are in each others’ way, so the ends of the strap don’t lay smooth. I would either rework the width of the flap or use a bag body that has the strap attached to the bag exterior rather than between the exterior and the lining.

But, again, I think this bag will work great for the trip. I love that it fits comfortably across my chest, so my hands will be free for adventure. And it’s really roomy. I’ll share photos of the bag in action a few weeks!

My Mom the Quilter

I am a crafty girl who came from a crafty home. Growing up, my mom taught me any craft I wanted to learn: cross-stitch, embroidery, needlepoint, sewing. Even as an adult when I needed to know how to crochet for work, I turned to my mom to teach me the basics. Somehow, she knew all these crafts and was happy to teach me.

My mom is also my crafty inspiration. I truly admire her creativity, her sense of artistic adventure, her use of color. A trip home simply isn’t complete until she shows me her latest projects and tells me her ideas for the next ones.

I was home again just last week, and I asked Mom if I could share some of her creations with you. She agreed, so now, I share with you some of the amazing quilts by my mom, Rose Doyle.

While she knows a wide variety of crafts, Mom has considered herself a quilter since 1980. Since then she’s made approximately 100 quilts of varying sizes. She’s won ribbons for many and has even judged a few quilt shows herself.

The quilt above is one of her favorites, titled Hutchison County Crossroads (made in 2006). Striped fabrics often find their way into her quilts (see the latest one at the top of this post), but in Hutchison County Crossroads, she made her own stripes using scrap fabrics cut into varying widths. Below is the back of this quilt.

Black and white fabrics have also been inspiration for Mom in recent years. In this one, titled Wild Hair (2010), she used the blacks and whites to set off the colorful blocks filled with florals and wild prints.

Given the size of her stash and the number of quilts she’s made, it’s not too surprising that scrappy quilts are some of her favorites to make. This one, titled Totally Scraps (2009), was inspired by the quilts of Gees Bend.

One of my personal favorites is this monochromatic sampler made in 2003. When I first looked at the quilt, I didn’t even see it was a sampler quilt. (Aren’t those supposed to be kind of boring?) But here, her use of color and the fabulous vintage fabric that makes the border, give these traditional quilt blocks new life.

I love that anything can inspire Mom to start thinking of a possible new quilt design. During one of my first trips to the Cincinnati zoo, the family was ready to move on after visiting the reptile house, but Mom was nowhere in sight. No fan of reptiles, she still couldn’t help but take a few minutes to sketch the pattern on a python for possible use somewhere down the line.

One of Mom’s most challenging projects was inspired by the linoleum design on the kitchen floor in her family’s farmhouse. She decided to create a wall hanging that replicated that design at full size, using the exact colors of the flooring.

First she drew the design on graph paper. Then she drew a grid on her background fabric and started fusing on the shapes. Some of the pieces are only a quarter inch square, so it was delicate work. And keeping the design aligned and on track wasn’t easy either. The project took years to complete. In fact, she said, “If it wasn’t something I really wanted to do, because it had sentimental value, I would have rolled it up and thrown it away.”

She did finish it though, fusing the pieces in place, and placing fusible webbing over the top to keep the pieces from peeling up. A bit of quilting and the binding were all the sewing she did.

Just recently, Mom did a trunk show for her quilt guild. There she found out that one active member remembered going to a guild workshop day to see if this was a guild she wanted to join. There she saw Mom working on the linoleum quilt, and the woman decided to join the group. It seemed like these people had some interesting things going on.

Not everyone in her guild “gets” Mom’s quilts. Bright colors, wild prints, crazy designs. I attended one of her guild meetings a few years ago, and brought my t-shirt quilt to show. One woman, who was familiar with another quilt of mine said, “Those colors. Again?” She didn’t care for my style, and I felt like my mother’s daughter. I couldn’t have been more proud.

Over the years, my mom’s style has changed. She started out making darker, more traditional quilts, with more definite patterns. Now she uses brighter colors and tries to be a little more creative. “I’m still not where I want to be,” she said, “I’m not sure I’ll get there.” But I know I, for one, will enjoy, admire, and be inspired by her artistic journey, wherever it leads.