Bookstore Reading

We had a wonderful time at the Rare Vision Books’ Christmas in the Depot Town Event in Genesee Depot on Saturday December 11.

We joined fellow Wisconsin authors and illustrators for a Christmas event at Rare Vision Books for reading from our newest books. Deb was so wonderful at reading from our first picture book!

We also enjoyed the wonderful Christmas vibe while patrons waited to meet Santa.

We have a limited edition set available which includes an adorable Roxy the Fox plushie and our new book.

It’s always a treat to meet other local authors and share tips and experiences. We had a jolly time!

Modern Basics: Book Tour and Giveaway – closed

I am thrilled to be a part of Amy Ellis’ blog book tour to help promote her new book, Modern Basics.

You know Amy from her blog Amy’s Creative Side, where she blogs about quilting.

I thought it would be fun to interview Amy to provide you with a little background about her and the development of her book.

1. How did the idea for this book come about? where did your inspiration for the theme come from?

I started sketching ideas for quilt blocks, when I wasn’t finding simple and interesting patterns that I wanted to make.  I like being able to finish a quilt in a week or two, instead of a month or year.  Eventually my sketches turned into a proposal packet!

2. When did you begin quilting, and where did your interest first come from?
I’ve been sewing since I was a girl, I made myself all sorts of garments from 10 years old on.  My interest in quilting, came with my kids!  I love being able to snuggle them in something handmade, and I love to sew!
3. Why do you quilt?
It really is my creative therapy!  When the days turn into a week or more that I haven’t sewn, everyone around here can tell.  That’s when I find a fast finish!

4. What is your favorite quilting tip? OR your favorite part about quilting?
My favorite part about quilting is finishing the binding by hand.  I love watching the quilt become finished as I work my way around it, and finally end up where I began with a complete quilt ready for the wash.  My favorite tip in getting it done, is hand quilting thread.
5. Do you sew other things besides quilts?
I sew garments, bags, pillows, curtains – anything I can get my hands on!

6. Anything else you would like us to know about you?
I’m a regular mom, with all the usual mom duties around the house and at school (3 of our 4 are in school). I make it a priority to make things for my own sanity, I love blogging daily, and the community I have found here online!

I really love Amy’s new book, so I am excited to be able to share a FREE copy with my readers! Leave me a comment by noon on Sunday, February 27 if you are interested in a chance to win!

Be sure to visit the rest of the tour for more chances to win a free copy:

Piece N Quilt 2/21/2011
SewCalGal 2/22/2011
Old Red Barn Co 2/23/2011
Terri’s Notebook 2/24/2011
Crazy Mom Quilts 2/25/2011
Wild Card Quilts 2/26/2011
BumbleBeans 2/27/2011
Fat Quarter Shop 2/28/2011
One Shabby Chic 3/1/2011
Canton Village Quilt Works 3/2/2011
Diary of a Quilter 3/3/2011
Fat Quarterly 3/4/2011
Amylouwho 3/5/2011

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Note that if you don’t win a free copy from one of the above bloggers, you can also purchase Amy’s book here and here.

Book Review – City Quilts

We have a wonderful quilting/fabric shop here in Madison, which I visit so often the owner and some of the ladies know me. It’s so nice to go into a shop and be greeted by name!

I was thrilled to find this book, City Quilts by Cherri House, on a recently shopping adventure.

I think the projects in this book are the perfect examples of modern quilts! I adore the inspiration of city life to make quilts representing “urban architecture and landscapes.”

Categories in this book include:

Urban Inspirations, offering insight into why Cherri picked these varied city scenes as the backdrop for her designs, the way the light hits the buildings at different times of day, the way the structures create different patterns, the way the cities are laid out in grids. She discusses building your design skills to create your own possibilities. She illustrates how to make a traditional pattern contemporary, how to throw in something unexpected, how to make statements based on your color choices.

Fabric: The Joy of Solids is a wonderful chapter talking about the palette of solids, using different color schemes to create the right effect or mood you are aiming for.

The Design Play: Endless Possibilities chapter gives us concrete ways to develop our own design skills, using simple graph paper or modern technology. This chapter also goes through the process of selecting borders (or not), quilting designs, and more inspirational guidance.

The Quilts chapter includes 12 quilt projects made from simple squares and rectangles to make interesting geometric designs that are inspired by city life. (see below for a couple examples)

The chapter on Quiltmaking Essentials includes useful techniques and finishing basics.

I have taken a couple graphic design classes, so I appreciate how far the simple geometric shapes will push an art project, especially when sewing with solid fabrics. I love the point Cherri makes in this book that the simplicity in these designs makes these projects beginner-friendly, while still offering the challenge for more experienced quilters of designing your own fresh, modern layouts.

Many of the projects in this book use black or charcoal gray for sashing, borders and binding, which makes translates well to the hard edges of buildings and the shadows created at corners and crevices. But you could even go the unexpected route by reversing the contrasts. That’s the beauty of this book, it gives you thought-provoking inspiration and guidance to develop your own modern design skills.

We can all relate to the scene that inspired this next quilt – flocks of geese! I love the fresh feel of this one, that it doesn’t have the expected sky blue fabric for the backgrounds.

For those of you with kids who frequent city playgrounds, you may never look at that weathered equipment the same again after seeing this next project. If you don’t have kids, all of these projects still help us notice our surroundings in new ways. I would not have seen this quilt in my mind when looking at playground equipment. But now I see where that scene can lead me in coming up with my own design ideas.

The following project is my absolute favorite in this book. Take a closer look at all those trees and parks in your own community. Wait a minute, this gives me the idea to use my backyard as inspiration for a quilt. It also reminds me of a tile mosaic, which is a beautiful architectural inspiration used by another quilt designer.

Cherri talks about her transformation from being bored with solid fabrics to her joy in working with them now. Subtle changes or gradations in color create a more dramatic effect that print fabrics can. I am slowly building my stash of solid fabrics, and I don’t think I own one piece of black or charcoal gray cotton quilting fabric.

I would love to stretch myself by making something from this book. It has been said quite often that inspiration surrounds you… only if you know how to look for it, not where to look for it. Cherri writes, “be inspired by what is around you.” This book definitely teaches that lesson.

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Previous book reviews:

Small Stash Sewing

Sewing Bits and Pieces

Best Practice – Resources

Ready for another installment of my Best Practices series? I can’t believe I have stuck with this series for six weeks  now!

I have worked as a paralegal for so many years (17!), and I’ve always found it important to have the right resources at hand. This carries over to my creative world too. There are lots of resources available, from books to magazines to the Internet.

(my new favorite resource – the Fat Quarterly e-zine!)

I especially love using the Internet and fellow bloggers for resources and inspiration. But I also like to have the actual books and magazines when learning the terminology, materials, tools, new techniques, and just looking for inspiration.

Finding what works for your needs can be fun. A couple things I like to look for in my resources: high quality pictures and illustrations (eye candy!), useful tips, intermediate to advanced techniques, and a variety of fresh, modern projects.

Sewing / Quilting References

When I first learned how to quilt in 1999, I took formal classes at the local quilt shop. I guess I was lucky to have access to such a fabulous shop because so many people nowadays seem to be either self-taught or are learning from free sites on the Internet. I’m a visual learner, so I like to hear and see the steps done and then try them myself.

Anyway, after those classes, I bought this quilting encyclopedia to have by my side as I made quilts on my own.

It’s an older book, but still great reference, from tools to techniques to piecing to quilting.

I progressed to using baby quilt books, since they provided easy to follow instructions for great projects.

These days, my sewing interested have expanded from sewing quilts to patchwork goods for our house and bags and clothes. Who doesn’t love Anna Maria Horner’s Seams To Me sewing book?! Every girl has to have this on her shelf!

I love the basic sewing techniques in this book to guide you through the charming projects that will stretch your sewing skills beyond of quilting. I adore Anna Maria’s voice and perspective – fun and free. There are no rules here; just guidelines to help steer you in the direction of success with your modern projects. I also especially like that this book is spiral bound so I can lay it flat.

Another sewing book I love is Amy Karol‘s Bend-the-Rules-Sewing book. It’s full of clever, modern projects with a fresh twist, from bags to aprons to table linens to aprons. I love her illustrations, and the multiple pictures or ideas she presents for each project.

Knitting and Crochet References

I learned how to knit and crochet when I was about 10 years old, but I ended up setting crafts aside while I was in college.

I relearned both knitting and crochet over 10 years ago, so I bought a couple reference books to have on hand. My absolute favorite resource book is the Knitters Companion because it serves like a mini encyclopedia (or a paperbook version of Google) when I get stuck and need to look up something quickly. I also really like that it’s spiral-bound so I can lay it flat if I need to follow along.

I always need help figuring out how to interchange yarns, since I often don’t have access to the yarn used in a pattern. So I especially love those particular pages!

Embroidery References

I used to do more embroidery and needlepoint in years past. At one point, I had to narrow down my hobbies, which is mainly sewing these days.

(Doodle Stitching by Aimie RayKids Embroidery by Kristin Nicholas, and Colorful Stitchery by Kristin Nicholas)

But I was so happy I had these reference books on my shelves when I made my mini friendship quilt for my recent blog giveaway. I needed a refresher on how to stitch words and flowers.

Color References

I think we would all agree how much fun it is to learn about the color wheel, how to use it, and how to make projects with the color wheel in mind.

I love the color exploration sections in Joelle Hoverson’s books. She provides a simple yet artsy narrative on combining various colors to achieve a different feeling.

I found this cool book at the local yarn store. I haven’t had much time to spend studying it, but it has amazing examples of different color combinations based on how you turn your color wheel.

Drawing Resources

I also have a pile of drawing and design resources, but I haven’t had much time to spend on those art techniques since the design and drawing classes I took last year.


I know, there are zillions of great craft reference books and pattern books on the market. I could write a separate post reviewing each one of these wonderful creative books. (I do have a couple new sewing books I plan to review soon, so stay tuned for more on that.) Having these particular resources on my shelves has given me access to techniques and inspiration right at my fingertips! Feel free to share your favorite resources in the comments or link to your blog.


Previous posts about my Best Practices:



Bobbins, Pins and Folding

Business Cards

Carry Your Product

Have you read Bronte?

After discovering two of my blogging friends are participating in Melissa’s Bronte-Along, I stood up straight and paid closer attention. I was an English major in college, and I have wondered ever since then why we never read any Bronte or Austen books!

bronte-along! by yummygoods.

I have a couple Bronte books on my bookshelves, so what better time to dive in with the first read-along – Jane Eyre!

The members of the Bronte-along are going to read more after this one, including Wuthering Heights and The Tenent of Wildfell Hall.

We’re supposed to blog about how we’re going to participate in this read-along. For now, I’m going to read this book, and probably try to watch the movie. Some people are doing things like paintings, crocheting a shawl, and embroidering a line from the book. I would to make something crafty, but I don’t know enough about the book, the characters, or the author to figure out a creative project to contribute. I’m off to read and look for some inspiration in my dreams.

Books I Read in 2009

I am always inspired by Anina’s list of books she read over the year. Every year, I wish I made more time to read, but I’m happy with my list. I read four of those books twice; does that mean I can count them twice? I also like keeping track of the books I read from year to year.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (almost done)
Thirst by Christopher Pike
Fragile Eternity by Melissa Marr (I can’t wait for the fourth book to come out this April!)
Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr
Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr
Dracula by Bram Stoker
The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson (a fantastic suspenseful, horrific, historical love story!)
Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
Eclipse by Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
New Moon Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer (I read this one twice!)
Three Weeks With My Brother by Nicholas Sparks (very good non-fiction memoir about the author’s life)
Oracle Bones by Peter Hessler (interesting non-fiction book about China)
The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant (very interesting story)
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan

I do have to confess (publicly) that the Twilight books were my favorites, but I also loved the Wicked Lovely series, and The Gargoyle!

I received a few books for Christmas (among other things), but I’m always on the hunt for more tips to good reads, so I would be interested in hearing any recommendations you have.

New Books

I bought some new books lately to spark my creativity, and I’m excited to share them with you.

I will start out with the best purchase of all – I broke down and bought Amy Butler’s Midwest Modern, which feels more like a coffee table book for my craft room, tempting me to call it my inspiration room.

Midwest Modern book

I have to admit, the first time I looked at this book, I was a little hesitant to buy it because I thought it would be a project book, like Amy’s first book In Stitches. However, on a recent lunch hour, I found a comfy chair in the back of the book store, and studied this book, page by page, as if it were a textbook. I found out that it is instead a lifestyle book, portraying different aspects of Amy’s life, from her house, to her studio, to her designs, to her garden, to her travels. I was so caught up in the images, the inspirations, and the messages that I just lost track of time. Every time I look at this book, I lose track of time.  It inspires me to sew more, decorate my house, plant more in the garden, and even learn to draw!

Next, I fell in love with Doodle Stitching by Aimee Ray, which gives general embroidery techniques and project instructions for many, many projects. This inspires me to try more embroidery, to practice my doodling and to learn to sketch.

Doodle Stitching book

The last book I bought was Pretty Little Patchwork by Lark Books, which begins with basic patchwork techniques and moves on to lots of adorable patchwork projects.

Pretty Little Patchwork book

I recently heard someone suggest that if a book has three or more patterns in it that you would make, you must buy it. Here are at least three projects I would like to try:
patchwork clutch

patchwork belts

patchwork clock

One last note, I can’t wait to purchase Anna Maria Horner’s new book to be called Seams To Me, which won’t be out until October. I just know it will be fantastic because Anna Maria and ALL her work are fantastic!