Our daughter got accepted to Chore Camp!

design, family, good laughs, inspiration

[NOTE TO READERS: I’m re-posting this from four years ago because it still makes me laugh. If you missed it then, enjoy.]

There’s a lot of excitement around our house as our daughter received her acceptance letter to Chore Camp! We submitted her application a few months ago and have been waiting for the mail every day to see if her acceptance letter had arrived. Finally it came today. Here’s what it looks like:

lucky charm

design, fabric, family, inspiration


I’ve often bristled when people tell me that I’m “lucky” to have had a great  professional opportunity. Lucky to be born in a free country? Yes. Lucky to have met my husband? Yes. But I’ve often thought that work opportunities were more a result of hard work and preparation than luck. However, every now and then luck appears in the midst of hard work and no one can deny its role.

Several years ago my cousin Rebecca Ringle, a mezzo soprano opera singer was getting her costume for a production in which she was singing. Rebecca had long admired the famed mezzo Frederica von Stade and was stunned to find that she had been issued a corset as part of her costume with a tag indicating that it had been previously worn by Ms. Von Stade. I told her that was a sign of great things for her and that she should always remember what it felt like to sing in that corset.

Last December I had a series of phone calls with Rebecca, who by now was an understudy at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. Life as an opera singer is not always easy, especially when the economy of Europe is unstable. You work and work and work at your craft and you hope that the right opportunities will come. I wanted to make something for her that she could take with her to performances that would remind her of the faith I had in her. I decided that she needed to take a little bit of Frederica Von Stade with her to every rehearsal and performance.

I found an old photo of Ms. Von Stade at about the age Rebecca is now in a Met performance of The Barber of Seville. Rebecca had recently sung this role and it is such a beautiful photo. (Note: using photos taken by others in this way is permissible for personal use only and cannot be sold.) I decided that the photo would be perfect for a small pouch that she could take with her backstage for her post-performance makeup or jewelry. Bill and I used photo transfer fabric, a zipper from our stash and a dark fabric for the back of the pouch. I told her I hoped it would bring her luck and that it was the gift every opera singer needs to have backstage. I warned her that every other future Christmas present will pale in comparison to the lucky Frederica Von Stade pouch!

A few weeks ago, luck undeniably appeared during a rehearsal at the Met. Another mezzo singer couldn’t make the scheduled run of Die Walkurie in a role Rebecca had performed professionally before and knew well. Rebecca was given the role. “That just never happens,” she explained to me last night. “You have to take Frederica with you! She’ll bring you good luck!” I reminded her. She promised she would. Thanks to the live Met broadcasts I’ll be listening from Chicago to my cousin make her long-awaited debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York today. Frederica would be delighted I’m sure.

late bloomer

design, experiences, fabric, family, quilting, sewing

It turns out that we’re late bloomers. I haven’t joined you here in a month because suddenly, beginning in March of this year, after 13 years in business, people have started noticing our work. A lot of them. This is a joyous development but it has left us working long hours, 7 days a week. We’ve had exactly 4 weekends this year not working because even though we hired people over the summer, we struggled to keep up. I have been here (with our cat Mies providing moral support), at my desk, writing, designing, signing contracts, participating in conference calls and summoning up all of my energies in planning what has been the most exhausting summer of my life. That has been the hard part.
The great part is to finally be able to tell you what we’ve been doing all of these late nights. These are in no particular order:

A 10-part class entitled Designing Modern Quilts with Craftsy

I cannot tell you how much time I spent on this class. It was like writing a book. It’s not a sewing class. It’s a design class. Step-by-step, concept-by-concept I share with students what Bill and I have learned about designing modern quilts over the past 25 years. I show over 40 of our quilts, including the first quilt (modern, of course) that I ever made in 1987 as well as many that we’ve made as commissions or for our home. Among these quilts are ones we’ve never shown in public or published. I am nervous that people will be expecting a project class (“now sew A to B…”) but hope that all of you who have written to me wanting to take a class with me will find this helpful–and you get to take it in your PJs whenever you want! You can take video notes and go back to them later when something on a quilt comes up 2 years from now. I will be responding to questions on the Craftsy site and will be doing everything I can to create community and dialogue on this topic that is so near and dear to my heart.

If you take the class, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it. The class debuts later this month and I’ll write more about that when I know the exact date. As an aside, the weirdest thing to me was that they had a lovely makeup artist who was responsible for giving me “The Full Kardashian” each morning before I went on set. This was endlessly entertaining to Bill and Sophie when we Skyped in the evenings from my hotel room in Denver. Bill didn’t even see me with makeup on at our wedding! But this is a “When in Rome…” moment I decided so enjoy the rarity of me with makeup on.

A Kid’s Guide to Sewing

Last March someone commented on Facebook that our daughter Sophie needed her own book. Bill and I thought about it because the comment was made as Sophie and her classmates began sewing some quilts for school fundraisers. These sewing sessions were a source of great excitement among many of the 5th graders who participated. Developmentally, 11-year-olds have the capacity to start making cool things with good craftsmanship. We decided that Bill and I would work on the book without a fee and use all of the proceeds for Sophie’s college fund. We approached C&T only to find out that they were ready to launch Fun Stitch Studios, a new imprint for kids’ sewing books. For once, we had perfect timing. But they needed the book in 2 months to be included in the launch of the imprint next summer! 16 projects sewn by an 11-year-old in 6 weeks for a 144-page book. Also it was decided that we needed at least 55 photos in the book that would require 3 photoshoots with such complex planning that I had massive Excel spreadsheets of kids of many ethnicities (because I couldn’t stand the thought that a child of a certain race would pick up our book and not see himself or herself represented), projects, photo releases, clothing, pick-ups, drop-offs, etc.

It’s hard to explain how much time we spent trying to get all of this done. I read no books. Didn’t get to the pool once. Knitted nothing, had no vacation and didn’t see our friends. But we got it done and have a book that we are so darn proud of. The photography is so charming with lots of kids and adults sewing together because Sophie felt the book should be about how much fun it is to sew with your family and friends. Sophie wrote sidebars to every project. I kept my laptop next to the sewing machine. As soon as she finished sewing, I’d pull it out and she’d dictate a sidebar about what was hard, what was fun and tips for kids who planned to make the project. I’ll share more when it’s released next July but we will be doing a West Coast Road Trip to promote this book as well as other projects so I hope that we’ll see lots of budding makers on the road next summer.

At long last FABRIC!

We were approached by a number of fabric companies last fall at Market and decided to work with Andover. Boy was that a great call. For our first line, we wanted to design a “cross-over” line that would appeal to modern quilters with its scale and motifs but also to traditional quilters who maybe wanted something a little softer and easier to live with than acid green and neon orange. Victorian Modern is the name of the first line and we’re already finalizing details of the second line, which we hope will be out in early 2013. Vic Mod, as Bill and I call it, should be out later in the year. Giveaways galore here and on Facebook when it arrives. I’ll post swatches and the free pattern image tomorrow because it’s midnight and I need to sleep.

The AQS Modern Mystery Quilt

I about fell off my chair last Spring when the American Quilter’s Society asked me to start writing for their magazine and to design a mystery quilt for their website. They have always been the bastion of tradition quilting and while I had seen lots of art quilts at their shows, I had never seen a functional modern quilt. So I started writing for them and will continue to have articles in their magazine at least through early 2013. On their website is a free Modern Mystery pattern broken up into 6 different sets of clues. Clue 4 was released today. The site with the clues is www.QuiltViews.com. As of this evening there were 362 participants, the most ever in one group, on their sister site Myquiltplace.com all sharing images of what each has sewn so far. They seem to be having a lot of fun with it. They have no idea how much we’ve tried to give them twists and turns so they have no idea what it’s going to look like.

There are a few other projects that I’m not at liberty to discuss quit yet, but seriously, we’ve been workin’ hard for you!

Houston here we come!

Lastly, we’re booked solid though mid-2014 teaching and lecturing all over the country. For the first time we’ll be at Market AND Festival and I’ll be teaching in between the two in Houston later this month. Hope to see you there. Our lovely and very talented intern Vanessa will be in the booth with me on Friday and Saturday so I know you’ll be nice to her. It’s her first ever business trip so she’s very excited.

For now,  I’ll say that I’m sorry my duties have kept me away from this space. It has been very challenging for me not to be able to respond to the many emails, phone calls and requests in as timely a way as I would have liked. You can hire people to do some things but at the end of the day, no one else is designing fabrics or writing our books. We need to do that and we want to do that. But I’m working on finding someone to ship orders and such.

A Big Day last Sunday

On a personal note, I achieved a big goal for myself on Sunday. I rode 103 miles on my bike. 100 miles in a day is referred to as a “Century.” I had ridden a century when I turned 40 with Bill on our tandem and wanted to do another one after turning 50 last year. Sunday was my day. Our family does the Apple Cider Century in Michigan most years but has in the past done shorter routes 35-50-62 for various reasons. Bill and Sophie rode with me the first 70 and I was on my own for the last 30. They veered off for the 75-mile route around mile 70 and I will never forget the feeling of seeing the arrows on the road that read “100” and making that turn. It was so powerful psychologically. I said to myself. “Look. I’m doing it!!! I’m going for it. I can do this!” It was so awesome.

I had my ipod and some tiny speakers in my handlebar bag so I was the one riding through the corn fields of Michigan blaring my Mommy Time Mix to the nearby cows and horses. No other riders were nearby. Support trucks passed me several times and I passed ones stopped, picking up other cyclists who had decided not to finish. Around mile 72 I noticed in the distance some people standing along the edge of some woods. I didn’t see bikes but I saw a stroller. I noticed a giant white thing about 6 ft tall but couldn’t see what it was. As I approached it I saw that it read “Good Job!!!” There were these strangers who decided to spend their Sunday afternoon standing on the side of the road cheering on the century riders. I wanted to stop and take a picture of it but behind my sunglasses were tears so I just yelled out, “This 51-year-old asthmatic thanks you!” They clapped and I kept riding, grateful for their kindness.

With my small lung capacity I ride slower than most long-distance cyclists so most of the 5,000 people doing rides of different lengths that day were gone when I crossed the finish line. There were some people loading up their cars who stopped to clap for me but mostly there were Bill and Sophie waiting for me at the finish line with hugs, kisses and food. Bill loaded my bike on top of the van with the tandem. If you passed us on the highway that day, you wouldn’t have known what a big day it was for our family. As people in other cars whizzed down the highway toward Chicago I wished every one of them could feel as good as I did at that moment.

How was your summer?