My first sewing machine

Here she is, in all of her mid-century pink glory. Well, she wasn’t mine actually, not until now anyway. This was my mom’s sewing machine, the first sewing machine that I learned to sew on. It’s an Atlas model from either the late 50s or the early 60s. Mom’s had it as long as I’ve been around, and she never has been able to sew on it. I, however, have never had any problem. Mom gave me her old machine when we were visiting in Florida and we got it shipped up here. The case took a beating in the shipping and the wood broke in a few places, but it’s still usable. The machine, however, is built like a tank and it would take one to do any damage. I started cleaning her up last night and was able to thread the machine and she still sews quite a nice straight stitch. I was thinking last night, I need to make something for mom on “her” machine and send it to her as a surprise. Haven’t quite figure out what yet.

I think we should have a naming competition and give her a name. My car is named Dotty, so we can’t use that one. Peggy? Doris? Eileen? Come on, give me your best shot.


Here is the paradox: At the point in my life in which I find the least time to indulge or express it, I find the impulse, the need, to create is stronger than it has ever been.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am keenly aware that the act of raising a child is a supremely creative one, contributing to the future of the world by advancing the next generation. And I truly enjoy every moment of my time with Juliette and I do not begrudge anything that she requires of me. But really, there isn’t much of any “me” time left any more. Maybe an hour or so after we put her to bed, if that isn’t taken up with bottles or cleaning the kitchen or finally getting a chance to check e-mail or what have you, or just simply laying down because I am too tired from a busy day. Let’s be honest – an inquisitive one-year-old on the verge of walking is a handful even for two people and requires “all hands on deck!” most of the time.

So why is it exactly this time (and over the past glorious year) that I have found my creativity welling up inside of me demanding an outlet. I was sure that I had lost my quilt mojo until I cleaned out my studio a few months ago and unpacked all my fabrics into shelving units. And I swear I could sit and knit for days on end if I but had the time. And my recent trip to the Minnesota Quilters annual convention in St. Cloud inspired me in ways that I didn’t expect and for which I was not prepared.

The other night, I must have woken at least a half-dozen times, and each time immediately thinking about a quilt I want to make or am in the process of making. And last night, after dinner, there was a part of me that felt like I was going to explode if I didn’t get into that studio and work on some quilt, any quilt, just sit and sew. I did manage to get a quilt pattern picked out for Juliette, the Crazy Eights pattern I have used before that calls for 8 fat quarters, and I got the first round of cutting completed, the strips that is. I have to cut those down into their various components to start piecing.

And when I was done with that, I put together a quilt sandwich of plain muslin to practice some of the stuff I was re-reading in the Easy Machine Quilting book I am reviewing. I convinced myself that I really do need the Easy Quilter frame I saw at the MQ show. That frame made it so much easier and faster to do graceful and smooth curves and so on. My head has been swimming recently with:

Voyager 17 –

Nolting FunQuilter –

Bailey Home Quilter –

Handi Quilter 16 –

Innova 18 –

Pfaff Grand Quilter 18.8 –

Prodigy –

Homesteader –

Quilt Easy frame –

SuperQuilter Proflex frame –

I wish I had both the money and the space to buy one of these. Honestly, what I really want is the Gammill Vision 18 or the APQS Lenni model, but I don’t have enough of space or money for either. A guy can dream, can’t he? In the meantime, I’ll do my best with the money and space I have to improve my own quilting skills so I can do more of my own quilting. I’ve always said that the was the part I didn’t like, so that is why I don’t do it. That’s only partially true. The reason I don’t like doing the quilting is because I’ve never found a way that I could do it sufficiently well enough to please myself. I’m hoping the Easy Quilter frame will go a long way in convincing me otherwise. I think it will. I can’t wait to find out for sure, but it will likely be several more weeks before I can get it. Oh, well, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Still, I’m something of an immediate gratification kinda guy.

Minnesota Quilters 2008

I could just have easily titled this post “or How Boyd sought to get his mojo back” because that’s precisely what I’d hoped would happen. I’ve been quilting in fits and spurts since last year and haven’t just connected with that pure excitement and joy that quilting used to bring me at every turn. I was hoping for an instant change of heart, as if by shear osmosis at a quilt show, somehow the fire would be lit again. Instead, I got sparks and a gentle fanning. Which might turn out to be OK in the end. I attended two lectures and Margaret Miller challenged me to re-exam what got me involved with quilting in the first place and to ask myself what sustains me and connects me with the community of quilters. And Ellen Anne Eddy, always a delightful speaker, reminded me that doing one’s art really is about focusing on what you love, what excites you and leaving the rest of the world behind. Yesterday, I picked up a journal for the first time in a long time to try to start writing and sorting some of this stuff out. I don’t have answers yet, but I am still pondering.

As for the show itself, while there were obvious highlights, some of the show left me a bit cold. And I bought one, count it, ONE piece of fabric during the entire time I was there. I bought some tools I thought were cool, especially the specially-created presser foot for sewing drunkard’s path curves without pins or matching. I’m excited to try that. And I got a great book of vintage apron patterns that I am anxious to make up. But most of the quilts left me flat. Here are some (but by no means all) of the quilts that I thought were remarkable.

Ellen Anne Eddy’s work is as remarkable as she herself is. How can this piece not blow your mind as to the possibilities that await those who have the clarity to follow their own vision?

This was Sue Rutford’s journal quilt and this picture doesn’t nearly do it justice. You had to get up close and really look at it to see what a wonderful and unique piece of work it was.

This quilt just made my soul smile. It is so exhuberant!

Again with the happy-happy, joy-joy.

My Wisconsin quilting buddies at the show, from L to R, Joan, me, Sharyn, Wendy, Carol, Pat, Jayne, and Nancy.

What a week!

What a great week it has been since I got back from that quilt retreat! Just the best in every way.

On Thursday night I realized I had spent more time in my sewing room over the past week than I have the whole time since we’ve moved in. That was startling. Earlier in the week I had unpacked some boxes from the garage that were still on shelves from the move and found some things that were presonally meaningful to me (along with some old crap I’m only too glad to let go of). It was surprising to me how much of my soul had been sitting taped up inside a box in the garage and although I try not to be too attached to material things, it felt good to have some artifacts of my life and sentimental objects back in my sewing room where they belonged. After all, they are markers of where I have been, physically and otherwise, and how I have become the person that I am today. I decided to move the picture of my grandma that was in the downstairs den into my sewing room as well, so that I would see her smiling at me whenever I was sewing in there. And I bought myself a new candle for my sewing room too. I was trying to figure out which Yankee Candle to get when I picked up the honeysuckle one, and it immediately reminded me of that innocent time in my youth when I would go into my grandma’s front yard with my cousin and we would laugh in the summer heat and pick those honeysuckle blossoms and suck the sweet nectar from the bottoms of them. Finally, I got rid of all the “junk”, i.e. non-sewing stuff, that had been accumulating in there and put it somewhere else. And I even bought a new clock radio for the room so I could plug my iPod into it and listen to my music or Podcasts while I am in there. And the radio is color coordinated with my iPod – how cool is that? All of this made a profound difference in how I feel about the place. Now I actually LIKE going in there!

I took Friday off since it was the last day of Harald’s vacation and Good Friday. We ran errands, putzed around the house, etc. I took a vacuum to the sewing room to get rid of dust bunnies and cobwebs – and I do mean that literally! Then the desire overtook me to scrub the floor clean in my sewing room. And I mean the old-fashioned way. Getting down on your hands and knees with a scrub brush, two pails of water, one soapy and one clear, and some rags. And I mean I scrubbed that floor so good you could EAT off of them when I was done! It took a day or two for the Pine-Sol scent to dissipate. And an hour after I started I was exhausted, but it was *so* worth it. When that room was clean, it felt like I had managed to clean out a dim and dusty part of my psyche as well. Maybe sometimes my surroundings really are a reflection of my inner life.

The weekend was so busy I didn’t get the borders put on the French braid, but I will get to that this week. But who can complain about getting to eat homemade coconut cake all weekend? Harald has turned into quite the active little baker and I for one am loving it. He got a hold of a Deen brothers recipe for coconut cake and all I will tell you I can hardly wait to get home tonight and eat the last leftover piece. We had a beautiful Easter service at church yesterday and a truly lovely dinner afterwards. Despite the snow that fell since Thursday, hope springs anew. Now if only spring would spring, we’d be all set.

What a great weekend!

A group of quilting friends and I headed to Lake City over the weekend. We made our home for two days the Dragonfly Dreams Retreat Center, recently opened by a friend of ours who used to belong to our local guild before she moved out of town. It was a glorious weekend getaway, and a time of real creative energy for me. I knew I would have the time, so I took Harald’s 40th birthday quilt (only a few years overdue at this point) and finally got all the piecing done.

Harald’s quilt top finally pieced together! Isn’t it lovely?

Once I got that done, I felt like a huge breakthrough had been made, and I could almost feel the flow return to my previously flowless creativity. One of the projects I turned to (after getting the binding put on a baby quilt I am making) was a French Braid quilt. I had bought the book and the fabric a year or so ago from Crystal’s Log Cabin Quilts in Grand Marais, a favorite quilt store of mine. I bought all these fabrics that reminded me of one thing or another about being on the north shore, figuring it would be a great tribute to have even the fabric come from there. I wasn’t sure I had done a very good job picking out the colors, but once I saw it going together, I knew I didn’t have anything to worry about.

A close up of one whole color run from my French Braid quilt. You can get some better idea of the color and pattern in this one.

This is what two of the four braids will look like, with the separator bands lined up on the design wall between them.

So I ended up getting more than half of the French Braid quilt done. I can hardly wait to finish it to see what it will look like!

I’m blessed to have wonderful quilt friends who are great to spend time with!

Country Threads, Garner, Iowa

Country Threads, Garner, Iowa

(Click on the photo to see the slideshow of our trip!) On Saturday I headed down to Iowa with three of my quilt buddies, Joan, Karen and Dawn. It was a perfect fall day for a car trip. We were off for Garner, Iowa, about 145 miles from my house, and a fabulous quilt store on a little town west of Clear Lake. On our way back, we stopped in Northfield. We were going to go to a yarn store called Cottage Industry, which we discovered had closed over a year ago. So we went to Digs instead. They took over the yarn stock of the place that closed. What a fun little store. Actually, all of downtown Northfield is fun – great little shops along Division Street. If you haven’t been, you should make a day trip of it. Just don’t show up at the Indian restaurant expecting to eat between 2:00 pm and 5:00 pm. They won’t be waiting on you.

WOW 2007 Quilt Show

Several weeks ago now I attended a quilt show given by a local guild to which several of my friends belong. The name of the guild is “Women of the West”, or WOW as they are known to many. I’ve been terribly tardy in getting the pictures off my camera and onto my site, but I offer these two links for you to peruse. The first link contains some of my favorite quilts that were on display. There were dozens and dozens more, but I couldn’t shoot them all: The second slide show is from a “bed turning” they did at the show. The folded back each old quilt over the bed, and told it’s story, where it was from, how it was made, what people remember about it, etc. It was most fascinating. Almost a “quilts as journals” type of thing. Enjoy!