Friday, August 26, 2011

Fun at the Fair!

It’s the end of August and that means it’s time for the great Minnesota get-together, otherwise known as the State Fair! Where else can you see Princess Kay of the Milky Way and her royal court get their heads carved in butter?

One of my favorite things to do at the fair is to see the many exhibits at the Creative Activities building. Each year a number of people who belong to my local EGA guild enter their stitchery in the fair. This year, as always, I found several of our members on the list of ribbon winners. One member won a sweepstakes prize for her stumpwork piece. This was a correspondence course a number of our members worked on this last year. It’s hard to really see the project in the photo as I had to take it through the glass, but trust me when I say it is truly lovely!

Another favorite stop is the Rosebud’s Cottage booth in Heritage Square. Each year their email subscribers receive a coupon for a free, special edition pattern designed by This n That just for the state fair. This year’s pattern was for a fun quilted and embroidered table centerpiece done in fall colors. I was told that a photo of the project will be put on the This n That blog after the fair ends on Labor Day, but the pattern is only available at the fair.

While at the booth I bought a new book called Fresh Fabric Treats. The projects use those Moda precut fabrics, though you could use any fabric at all from your stash. I linked to the book description on Amazon, but I must tell you that the book preview does not show the best projects from the book. I would venture to say that the projects they do show are the least “fun” ones from the book! 

I need another book like I need another toe, but I couldn’t resist this one! Included are very cute bags, a clear zippered supply pouch, a “book” for storing your in progress quilt blocks, and several other delightful patterns. I paid (gasp!) the full retail price of $21.95 and think it was a good buy.

In addition to going to the fair, I managed to finish reading The Lacemakers of Glenmara. I need to give it a rating of fair. I am told the story itself is loosely based upon a true incident that happened a number of years ago in Poland. It seems a group of ladies adorned lingerie with their lace to sell and the local church leadership thought it was somehow a problem and excommunicated them! This particular story happens in Ireland where a young lady from America travels to after losing her mother and breaking up with her fellow. The story isn’t a bad read, but the ending was somewhat abrupt. It seemed like the author needed to end the story and had to hastily get rid of a couple of the main characters with no warning. I would suggest borrowing this from your library if you would like to read it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A few good books

There are a number of books, and book series, out there that have “crafts” as their main theme. I’ve read a number of them and thought I would share my responses to them.

First, if you have a Kindle or use one of the Kindle apps, you may be interested in a free book- Lye in Wait is currently on Amazon as a free ebook. It may not be free for long so check the price before you click on Buy. I downloaded it but haven't yet read it.

If you haven't read the Shenandoah Album series by Emilie Richards, I do recommend it. Each title is a quilt name with the first being Wedding Ring. The series began as a trilogy but the author decided she needed to explore the characters a little more and it ended up as a five book series. The story starts with a somewhat cranky woman named Helen. Her relationships are explored with her wedding quilt as the centerpiece of the first book. I’ve read the entire series and enjoyed them all. The last one was written in 2009 so I expect that is the end of the series. There are quilt instruction books based upon the series available at a variety of booksellers and quilt shops as well as at your local library.

Another series that is current and ongoing is by Betty Hechtman and uses crochet as the center of the story. You can find them as either Crochet Mystery Series or Tarzana Hookers Mysteries. I’ve read the first two books and so far am enjoying them. They are based upon a woman, Molly, who is the event coordinator at a book store. One of the events she organizes is a crochet group that gets together to create projects for local charities. Molly is new to crochet. Other members of the group have much more experience with, and opinions about, crochet which makes for some interesting interactions. And, of course, someone is murdered and Molly helps track down the killer. These are quick reads and are a good take along for vacation or for when you want something light to read. Each book includes a recipe and a crochet pattern.

Not to leave knitting out, there is another mystery series that features knitting and is authored by Maggie Sefton. These are very similar to the crochet series in that they are quick reads and mostly enjoyable. She is on book 9 in the series. I have read through book 7. The story is about Kelly who inherits her aunt’s property after she is murdered. Her aunt was a knitter but Kelly is a novice. She ends up developing a relationship with the women and men of the local yarn shop and tries her hand at knitting while also solving murder mysteries. I really liked the first four books or so, but somewhere around book 5 or 6 the author took a turn and I found myself reading more of a Harlequin romance than a cozy mystery. Book 7 backed off a little bit from that and I truly hope the rest of her books will go back to the mystery focus. Romance is just not a genre I read and I really don’t care for it when I’m reading a mystery. Each book includes a recipe and a knitting pattern.

One last series I’ll mention today is by author Monica Ferris. She writes what has become a very popular series that is set in a small town in Minnesota. Similar to the previous two series, these are fun mysteries that are easy to read. The main character is Besty who has inherited a needlework shop from her murdered sister. Betsy is a complete novice in the world of needlework. She decides to keep the shop and with the help of her staff she learns what she can about the needle arts while solving murders. What I like about this series is that the author delves into a different type of needlework in each book. You not only have a good mystery to read, but you learn about a needlework technique. Monica includes a small pattern at the end of the book in that technique. She is currently working on book 15 in the series which will be out later this year. If you are in the Twin Cities area you will want to watch for Monica’s appearance at one of the Textile Center Library author bag lunches later this year. She was our guest speaker at our EGA chapter’s luncheon last December and is a joy to hear.

There are other crafting type novels out there and at some point I’ll do a review of those as well. For now, I continue to work on my EGA related projects and will have an update on those next week!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Kalona, Iowa

This past weekend we drove to Iowa for a family wedding. We stayed at a small hotel in Kalona, Iowa.  This community includes many Amish and Mennonite families. The downtown is small but has a number of fun shops and eateries. Because of the wedding schedule and the shop hours, we didn’t have a lot of time to explore, but I still managed to visit two quilt shops and take a few photos on the Kalona Quilt Block Walking Tour.

Our two children, their spouses and our two grandchildren all went to breakfast at the Kalona Family Restaurant. The food was good and not very expensive. Best of all, there were two quilt shops within easy walking distance! My daughter-in-law and I took the youngest grandchild and headed for the shops while the others went off and explored outside of the downtown area.

Our first stop was just around the corner at the Willow Creek Quilting & Gifts. (I couldn’t find a website for them but they do have some basic info about the shop on Facebook.) Both of us thought this was a great shop! They have a lot of samples on display and featured not only quilting projects but embroidery and wool projects as well. I must say I succumbed and purchased a fun wool embroidery kit for six cute little Christmas mittens. They have a nice selection of reproduction fabrics- Civil War, Jo Morton, etc.- and a good variety of patterns, books and notions. There was a little room off to one side that was full of baby/child fabrics and projects. The front of the store had several nice displays of gift items, candles and the like.

The front of the store is very deceiving. Once inside you discover that shop is very long and deep, allowing plenty of room for many bolts of fabric. The ladies in the store were very pleasant and welcoming. They all stopped to see the baby and ooh and aah over him. Always a nice touch for any grandma! I think we could have spent a lot more time in this shop but we had one more stop to make before heading back to the hotel to get ready for the wedding.

The next shop was about a block away and off the main street area. Stitch ‘n Sew Cottage was a very bright and roomy shop. They had a very large selection of quilt stencils which are becoming more difficult to find. I bought two but could have easily purchased several more. I also found a new fabric that I liked and picked up two yards to add to my stash. That said, we were both somewhat disappointed with this shop. The woman who checked us out was very nice, but not a single person approached us as we walked through the store to ask if we needed help. The samples on display were very limited, mostly panels that had been quickly assembled and hung on the wall. There was nothing that either one of us saw that made us say, “Oh, I need to make that!” Would I go back again? Probably. It is so close to the other Kalona shopping so to walk past it seems a little silly. Plus, I am always looking for new quilt stencils.

It has been a number of years since my last visit to Kalona and apparently they were in need of a refresh to their downtown area. Just a couple of months ago they finished up a revitalization program and, being the Quilting Capital of Iowa, used a quilting theme. Signage in town now features various quilt blocks and they have a Quilt Block Walking Tour, complete with its own brochure. 

The brochure features a photo and brief description of each block. After the wedding I drove the couple of blocks to the downtown area and did most of the walking tour. Local businesses sponsored the 42 blocks that grace the sidewalks. A couple of them are outside of the main shopping street, one being at the Historical Village where the Quilt and Textile Museum is located. I didn’t have time to visit the museum so that means at least one more trip to Kalona in the future!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Clones Lace

This week I attended an author lunch at the Textile Center. The library hosts one every month but I’ve usually had a conflict and so haven’t been able to go until now. 

The featured author was Maire (pronounced like Myra) Treanor, author of a lovely book entitled Clones Lace: The Story and Patterns of an Irish Crochet- available at Lacis. Clones (pronounced in two syllables- KLOHN ess) lace has its beginnings in the mid 19th century when Ireland was experiencing The Great Hunger. This lace was created and sold as a source of income for families who had no other means.

Maire has amassed a collection of Clones lace that is in wonderful shape. Many of her pieces are sales samples. They were used by the various lace traders to show to prospective buyers. Because they were not used in homes and were stored out of the sun, they are in excellent condition. She brought along several of her pieces. What an opportunity to hold a little bit of history in your hand, even if for just a few moments! Below is a jabot from her collection.

In addition to her book, Maire has been published in several crochet magazines including those from Russia and Ukraine. She is in the current issue of Interweave Crochet where she is beginning a four part series that leads you through a Clones lace wrap. She had the project in progress to show us. Here it is being modeled by her host. 

The motifs are created first and then basted onto a backing material (the green you see in the photo). The motifs are then connected using the Clones knot. Once connected, the backing fabric is removed. Maire told us that each family had their own motif that was unique to them. If neighbors came to visit while they were crocheting, they would hide their motif under the table so it couldn’t be seen. I love that!

One of the problems with Clones lace is that it was made by many people in other countries. It is sometimes difficult to know whether the lace is really from Clones. There were also many people who left Ireland in hopes of finding a better life elsewhere. Sometimes they had to rely on their skills in Clones lace to provide an income in their new country. For example, you can find lace created in Appalachia that has its origins in the lace created by the Irish immigrants who settled there.

Maire told of some lace makers from Poland who created “sexy” lingerie in lace and were threatened with excommunication. This story from history was borrowed and used in a novel The Lace Makers of Glenmara.  Maire told us it was a good read, but it is fiction so some of the details aren’t historically accurate. That will be added to my growing list of books to read. When I do read it, I’ll post a review.

Below you can see Maire holding a lovely christening gown she made for her daughter. My photo doesn't show well, but you can get the general idea. She tells us that it had been loaned as a sample at one point, but the person she loaned it to called her and said someone had actually sold it! As you can imagine she was heartbroken because this was something she had created for her own family. She tried several times to contact the new “owner” explaining the situation, but received no response. She finally had a solicitor send a letter and the gown was sent back within the week. Once she had it back she embroidered on the underskirt the names and dates of the children christened in the gown. 

Maire has a nice blog on Clones lace. She has a number of links, including a You Tube video that shows you how to make a Clones knot. As I was reading I found a brochure on her Clones lace workshops that she holds in the summer. Do you think it’s unreasonable to fly to Ireland next summer to attend? I do have a wee bit ‘o the Irish in me, so perhaps I can claim it as a trip to seek out my ancestry. We just won’t tell anyone that my family comes from the opposite side of Ireland!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Ta da!

I have finished the baby quilt and Ryan loves it! You can see him here relaxing away on it.

I am now working on embroidering some towels we will be using for our regional meeting in October. We are having a Meet and Greet one night and the theme will be Minnesota Hot Dish. With a theme like that the décor HAS to involve embroidered kitchen towels! Each member of our group was given a plain towel to embroider with a design of their choice. We’ll use them for the evening and then return them to the member who made them. I had a few heavier towels with color stripes so decided to use those. I have a very small collection of Aunt Martha’s transfers and selected a few with fruit themes. I ironed on the transfers, which can be used several times before they lose their ink, and set to work. Once started, however, I realized the designs were a little more intricate than I really wanted to work on for this particular project. You can see the beginnings of the strawberry design below.

I haven’t decided what I will do yet. I may continue with these designs or I may choose a couple of designs that aren't so involved and use them on the plain white towels I have.

I still need to finish my Dresden Garden and I have another EGA correspondence course to complete. There are just not enough hours in the day!