Interesting times

There is an old curse that I’ve been thinking about lately. It goes like this: “May you live in interesting times.” This current situation in which we find ourselves certainly qualifies as an interesting time. My husband and I have been on lockdown here in our cozy condo on the North Fork of Long Island since the end of the final week of February, which makes it now a full two months that we have been hunkering down due to COVID-19. It’s been . . . well . . . interesting.

We took a little mini-vacation in Florida back in February, which didn’t really go so well. Instead of the nice, relaxing vacation we had planned, we discovered that the location we’d chosen was not the best. Instead of the lovely resort we expected at a well-known, high-end hotel brand, we found a rather run-down, pathetic and slightly dirty-around-the-edges place that had obviously seen better times (like the ones that had been glowingly portrayed on their website). We tried to make the best of it, but when my poor husband spent the next-to-last day of our getaway suffering from a horrible case of food poisoning, any pretense of a pleasant vacation flew right out the window. It was a relief to return to our nice clean home. And poor Fred doesn’t want to even think about Chinese food for a very, very long time.

We’d heard about how the virus had affected China before we left on our ‘vacation’, and while we were in Florida we listened to the news about how my beloved Italy was being devastated by the deadly scourge. And then, it showed up here at home, with a major outbreak just one town away, in Southold. We’ve been lucky. We’ve stayed healthy, and the infection rate in our own hamlet of Aquebogue has been very low, although all around us the virus has been affecting families, some of whom we know. Luckily, those close to us, our dear friends and family, have been unaffected as of yet.

I was able to join my my quilting group, the North Fork Quilters, for one last meeting after returning from Florida, just before the virus hit. We were already cognizant of the threat. Chairs at our long table were placed further apart than normal, and there were no hugs exchanged, even when I shared with them my very, very good news that my book proposal to C&T Publishing had been accepted. It was wonderful to receive their congratulations and encouragement, but I really did miss those hugs I knew I’d have received under more normal circumstances. 

So, a few days later, when the lockdown was announced, my good friends the North Fork Quilters began to produce face masks by the dozens (and in some cases, by the hundreds!) while I contributed a few dozen for first responders, my family, friends and neighbors and and then concentrated my efforts on producing content for my book.

And I’ve been at it since. Part of me is glad to have the distraction of a job to do, since my face-to-face quilt instruction business as The Quilt Whisper has come to a standstill. I’ve been busy making projects and writing for the book, but another part of me is feeling slightly guilty for not producing face masks to aid the front line workers and those who now have the need to follow the New York State guidelines for wearing a mask when out in public. Even more guilt-inducing, I’ve been jealous of those quilters who have lots of time to finish up their longstanding ufo’s and just fiddle around in their sewing rooms, having fun exploring U-tube and Pinterest and Facebook and other fun parts of the internet (although I have made time to watch the adorable Pluto from Canada-land every time his two-legged mom posts a new video — little Pluto with her squeaky voice and great advice is just too cute to miss!).

I can’t reveal the topic of my book, to be released in the early fall of 2021, except to say that it’s about a technique very close to my heart, one I’m passionate about. Those of you who know me and my passion for this particular technique will probably be able to guess what it is, but for the general public, the topic must remain a secret. It will contain a gallery of my own art quilts, a second gallery of quilts and projects produced by some of my students who learned the technique in my classes, it will be scattered with stories I learned in a place I cannot mention and it will contain some brand-new projects that introduce the technique with step-by-step instructions. Is that mysterious enough?

I can say that I am thrilled beyond words to be writing a book to share with quilters around the world. It’s been a long held dream for me. I’m honored to have it published by such a renowned and respected company like C&T.

To my friends, colleagues and customers, I wish you all good health and the patience you need to get you through this challenging and interesting time. I miss you all and can’t wait until we are able to hug each other again!

A visit to TWO Quilt Shows in just two weeks!

A visit to a quilt show is always more fun with friends, and two shows on two consecutive weekends makes for even more fun!

The first show, AQS Quilt Week in Lancaster, PA, was a two-day bus trip (March 29-30, 2019) that included an overnight stay and plenty of fabric shopping, too. Lancaster is a quilter’s mecca, with beautiful scenery, delicious food, and the presence of quaint buggies, bike-scooters, and other wonderful Amish things like shoo-fly pies. This year’s quilt show did not disappoint. I took very few photos at the show mostly because I was busy chatting with friends, but those that I did take were of quilts that grabbed my heart. I’ll show just a few of them to you here, complete with titles and attributes to the talented quilters who were generous enough to share them with the public.

The quilt above, ABC Frippery, was selected Best of Show. I was stopped in my tracks by its astonishing detail and workmanship. The maker is Janet Stone of Overland Park, KS. Janet is a previous winner of the AQS Best of Show award, and is known from her many fabulous alphabet quilts, as well as for including a sheep in every one of her quilts. This one was no exception. It took a while, but I finally located the sheep. It’s in a tiny gold locket hanging just under the “M”. Janet quilted this beauty on her stationary machine. It includes machine appliqué, beading, bias work, couching, crystals, embellishments, free motion quilting, and machine piecing. Wow.

The quilt above took my breath away. It was part of a special exhibit, “The 14th Quilt Nihon Exhibition” according to the show catalog, Quilt Nihon is one of the most prestigious international quilt contests in Japan. Tomoko Sagami’s “At the Secret Territory (Shimeno)” is hand-quilted from kimono fabrics given to her by her mother, mother-in-law and friends. Tomoko wrote that “the theme of the quilt is the carefree character of the Manyo people and their intimate love scenes. I depicted the theme by using the Japanese Shippo pattern.” I was fascinated by the tiny traditional pieced blocks she included in small sections of the Shippo pattern. Below is a detail pic:

Look at that little basket block!

Upstairs in the Lancaster convention center was another special exhibit, “35 Years of AQS Anniversary Showcase Preview: Collection of The National Quilt Museum.” The exhibit showcased 15 previous Best of Show quilts on loan from the National Quilt Museum’s permanent collection. Below is a photo I took of Caryl Bryer Fallert-Gentry’s Midnight Fantasy #10.

Caryl is one of my quilting heroes. She was one of the innovators of machine quilting, making it an acceptable art form back in the old days (the 1980-90’s) when quilting by machine was controversial, and only hand-quilted quilts were thought of as “real” quilts. It is always wonderful to be able to see one of her masterpieces in person.

Next weekend, next show…..

The second show, The Smithtown Stitchers -The Joy of Quilting was last weekend (April 6-7, 2019). While there, I happened upon one of my students, Rosalie Wong, smiling beautifully in the photo below with her Best of Show award-winning quilt! She had met with me just a few weeks ago, for a little help in deciding how to quilt her magnificent masterpiece. I was proud and flattered to have been a part of the process that produced her gorgeous quilt! Congratulations, Rosalie! A well-deserved award!

Quilt shows are wonderful. They provide us with not only beauty to gaze upon and enjoy, but the opportunity to connect with other quilters and share the joy that quilting brings us. Aren’t we lucky to have such opportunities?

The importance of being kind to yourself

Venetian Lace #6

I alway make a point of telling my students that they need to be kind to themselves. “It makes no sense to be impatient with yourself,” I tell them during workshops I teach,  “You are the most important person in your life. Be nice to you.” I even write it in my class handouts.

It can be difficult to remember to take care of ourselves first.  I’m reminded of the flight attendant’s instruction to first place the emergency oxygen mask over your own face before tending to your children.  Outside pressures and responsibilities can interfere in our artistic lives, making it difficult to find the time and space that we need to fulfill our creative passions. When we can’t do that, we creative types tend to get cranky. And then those around us can get impatient with us.

But it’s unrealistic to expect our friends and loved ones to be kind, thoughtful and caring towards us, if we can’t manage to feel those very things for ourselves.

Thought for today . . . be nice.  Give yourself a pat on the back for all that you have accomplished, and go easy on yourself for the things that may not be exactly as you’d like them to be.  Things will change.  They always do.

Revisiting the old days – or – On coming home again

It’s been said that you can’t go home again. Maybe that’s true. A person can’t go home again, in actuality, because everything always changes. We ourselves change when we change our surroundings. When we leave our homes, we encounter new things: a new geography, new people, new sights, new smells, new sounds; all these new things affect us, making us change our way of seeing, our way of feeling, and even our way of thinking about the world around us.

We are often told not to dwell on the past. After all, you can’t change it, can you? What’s the sense of taking that trip down memory lane, when you’re sure to come out feeling depressed and frustrated and muttering “couldah, shouldah, wouldah.” Who needs to be reminded of all of their failures, all their mistakes, all their wrong turns and bad decisions? Better to leave all that in the past, where it belongs, right?

Still, it can be a good idea to revisit the past every now and then. After all, there were good things that happened, too. Going ‘home’ again, and thinking about your past can be an excellent way to evaluate where you are in your life, and how you got there. Perhaps it can help to set a course for a new direction or a different way of thinking.

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