The Books & Brunch event was yesterday, and I wanted to share a little bit about it. I’ve been looking forward to this event for the last few weeks. When the Assistance League of Greater Cincinnati contacted me about doing this fundraising event, way back in September, I was so, so pregnant and could only barely imagine not being pregnant. But it sounded like a great organization and a good opportunity, so I happily said yes.
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Me with Arlene, my helper for the day. Thanks, Arlene!
First off, I was treated like royalty (though I probably didn’t look quite as glamorous as Will & Kate this morning). Everyone involved with this organization is really the tops; it’s a very gracious and giving group of women. I was one of four authors they brought in (they had our books set up for sale, and people got the chance to buy them and have us sign them), and I was in truly great company: Sharon Draper (former teacher, nationally recognized and honored, and all-around-amazing author of 30 books), children’s book author Heather Henson (Kentucky girl and teller of inspiring stories), and novelist Sena Jeter Naslund, whose books look so intriguing that they’ve all been added to my reading list.

We each had the opportunity to give a talk. I used to hate public speaking, but now, I actually like it (provided I’m talking about something I know well). Speaking on a topic you’re passionate about is a great way to connect to people, and I like to connect to people.

But the real challenge with this group was that I knew there was a good chance many of the women didn’t sew. How do you inspire a group of women who may not share the same passion for sewing as you?

So, I decided to talk about, well . . . changing the world. In fact, what was so fascinating is that all four of us talked about changing the world. We each came at it from different angles. It sounds so lofty, I know, but isn’t it what we all want to do? Seriously, whether you approach it from altruism or religion or karma or whatever, we each want to make some part of the world better, don’t we?

Sharon talked about how releasing judgment and helping others to have a voice can change the world.

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Sena talked about how imagination and telling the untold and yet-to-be discovered stories has the potential to change the world.
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 Heather talked about how getting books to children and reading to children can shape the rest of their lives, which changes their worlds, and helps them to create a better world.

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For my part, I talked about how knowing the history of sewing can change the world, and that even if you don’t sew, the stories of women and sewing have the power to transform the way we think and act. I boiled it down to three reasons. (Hey, I’ve spent a lifetime writing women’s service magazine articles: I like, organized take-away messages.)

So, the three ways that knowing the history of sewing can change the world. Are you ready?

1. The history of sewing is the history of the domestic, and the domestic still largely gets ignored in most textbooks and traditional history classes. The domestic isn’t about big world events. It doesn’t get plotted on timelines and quizzed in school. It’s about day-to-day living at home. It’s about conversations and feeding and clothing the babies and rituals and paying bills and eating dinner. It’s all of the goods and meals and emotions produced in the home everyday. The domestic is about how people live. You can’t change anything about the world if you don’t understand how people live.

2. The history of sewing is a study in resourcefulness. It’s about re-using and re-purposing when needed, and then making thoughtful, deliberate decisions about what you need when you are buying new materials. To sew is to be deliberate. In today’s throw-away culture, that’s wisdom we all need in our everyday lives. Deliberate thinking is what will help change our world.


3. The history of sewing is inspirational, from both a creative perspective and an entrepreneurial perspective. It’s inspirational to see how women took the situations they had and made something from them. They bettered themselves by building home-based sewing businesses (such as through the Women’s Domestic Institute, which I’ve written about before). It’s also inspirational to see how generations of women took something that was expected of them—domesticity—and turned it into a creative outlet. Their creative talents affected change—whether it was raising money for various war efforts (Civil War and World Wars), clothing the poor, making their children feel loved and secure by giving them a quilt, or getting extra income for the family so that their kids could go to school, not the factory. Creative talents can always change the world, by changing people’s situation in life or their attitude and outlook on life.

So there you have it, my top three reasons why knowing the history of sewing can actually help us make our world a better place!

Have a great weekend everyone, and to my UK friends (still basking in the glow of the royal wedding), have a lovely holiday on Monday!



 
 
I've got about 10 more bags of mulch to spread, edges to be edged, weeds to be pulled, and any number of other pressing gardening chores. But the rain will not let up!
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So, I guess all I can do is wait it out. The pansies are acting Zen about it, so I probably should too.

In other news, I'm very excited to be talking at the Books & Brunch event tomorrow! I love talking to people about Sew Retro and why sewing is, um, the coolest thing in the world to do. I'll share some of my speech (in which I try to make the history of sewing relevant for an audience of quite a few non-sewers) after it's over.

I'm also super excited for my friend, Caroline Tiger, who is going to be an expert commentator on the Fox network, bright and early Friday morning! She'll be talking all about the royal wedding. She is the author of the Newlywed's Instruction Manual and she is so smart and hip that I know she will have brilliant things to say.

I've booked my next guest for a Q&A giveaway, and I'm not saying who it is yet, but I know everyone is going to LOVE her. I certainly do.
 
 
I do my share of venting (whining), but I also like to celebrate the stuff I’m excited about. Here is what is jazzing me up this Friday morning.

1. After slogging through a few weeks of sickness, everyone is finally healthy again. The runny noses are (almost) gone. I was the last to get the awful cold from hell, and I think I am almost over it (even though the cough remains). Yay for good health! (Even if it only lasts a week.)


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2. I’ll be talking about Sew Retro  next week at the 9th Annual Books & Brunch event here in Cincinnati, put on by the Cincinnati Assistance League, an organization that raises money for causes that are dear to me, like underprivileged kids and domestic violence survivors. It’s Thursday, April 28th at 10 a.m. (you can still sign up!). Sew Retro will be for sale (thanks to The Bookshelf bookstore) and I'll be signing copies. I’m so honored to be in the company of three other inspiring authors, including Sharon Draper.


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3. Speaking of awesome events, my business coach is organizing a virtual retreat next week (you participate live for FREE, or can get the audios and listen at your convenience) called Rewire Your Wealth. She’s got all kinds of amazing experts to guide you through realizing your entrepreneurial dreams. If you are an entrepreneur, or want to be an entrepreneur (that includes you, fabulous Etsy shop owners), definitely check it out!

4. I’ve got my eye on a couple of new books. First is Signature Styles: 20 Stitchers Craft Their Look, which I read about on Bari J’s blog (she's one of the stitchers featured.) Doesn't this cover look delicious?
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The other is Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child, from Meg McElwee (due out in June). If you haven't been following Meg's story of her second child (just born a few months ago with a heart defect), you definitely should. It's a wonderful (and uplifting) story, and I'm so happy that little Lachlan is doing so well.

Let me just pause for a minute to say that not even a craft book industry in crazy flux can keep a crafter down. Yes, the publishing industry pretty much stinks right now as the future of what publishing will look like confounds almost everyone, and sure advances are pitiful (unless you are a celeb), and yes, most of the promotional responsibility falls on the author. But it doesn’t matter. We soldier on and publish these beautiful, beautiful books anyway!

5. I got a gorgeous stack of fabrics in the mail yesterday for a project I’m doing for Quilts & More magazine. Granted, I’m only using a few of the pieces, but just seeing them all spread out on my work table makes me feel giddy. It’s that great moment before you decide on your fabrics and you let yourself just play with the possibilities.

6. The Springfield Antique Show & Flea Market is only a month away! This is the best show for awesome vintage finds (including vintage fabric and textiles) in this part of the country. It’s been written up in Country Living and Martha Stewart Living. Just get yourself there!




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7. Today is the day I am cleaning my office (also my sewing space). It is bad. I mean bad. This picture doesn't even do justice to its current state of badness (that's because mostly it was taken so Max could show off the new haircut he had to come upstairs to tell me about). The last time I really cleaned this room where I spend 8 (or more) hours every weekday (and some weekends) was . . . um, before Georgia was born? Seriously.

8. I’m lining up the next batch of Q&A/giveaways. I hope to do some great ones this summer, so stay tuned!

Oh, and have a lovely Easter!

 
 
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It’s been a mighty long winter, and thinking about going to the season’s first Burlington Antiques Show yesterday made me giddy all last week. How I’ve missed the funky, found, surprise-around-every-corner nature of outdoor vintage markets.

Despite annoying wind and serious mud, it was a great, great show. Laura (my sister) and I are flea market junkies, and my kids are still little enough that I can cart them around in strollers. My brother-in-law, Mike (Laura’s husband) decided to come too (he’s a fool for glassware and random kitsch) and I even convinced my husband, Allen, to come. When I saw the mud and felt the wind, I started to second-guess my choice to bring the kiddies. But it warmed and turned out pretty super-tacular in the end.

The main thing Allen and I were looking for was a new kitchen table. I bought one at the Springfield Antiques Show & Flea Market last year, and I’ve written about it here. As much as I love the 40s/50s metal table, it’s just too narrow (especially now that we have two kids). Allen spotted this fabulous Heywood Wakefield original, and I got that stirring feeling in my gut like this was probably going to be The Table. After checking out its features (it folds down super small, perfect for our kitchen), and doing a little bargaining (I love bargaining), we snatched it up for $200. (You can find the vintage stuff at markets like this one, but the Heywood Wakefield name was a bought, and the current company makes new furniture in the spirit of the vintage stuff).
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We should have bought this super cool mid-century chair too. Ah well.
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I was also searching for pretty pieces of vintage china to make a three-tiered serving piece I saw on the back page of ReadyMade from a few months ago (I actually got the idea sometime around 4 am on Sunday morning, when I was up with a miserable, teething Georgia). Various plates and pieces charmed me, but I wound up opting for cheap, and got two lovely plates for $2 each (you can one--the middle bottom one with blue around the edges), plus one of the candlesticks to use as a spacer. Just need one more plate and one more candlestick.

At another booth, I found a couple of feedsacks, as well as this random oil painting from the 80s ($50 for all of it). It’s signed by an artist, but not by anyone famous. I’ve decided the story is that the artist was probably a mom who wanted to start painting and took some art classes at the local studio once her kids were in school, and she painted all the scenes that had been trapped in her head.  I just couldn’t walk away from it. I think I’m going to hang it in my bedroom. (I forgot to take a pic of it at the market, so I just took one outside now.)
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I bought the two pink ones.
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Laura and I also bought a cart on wheels (we always see people wheeling these carts around and just happened to see one at the exact right moment that we were both thinking we needed one). $18 well spent (sort of wish I had bought the quilt that was sitting on it now).

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Can I just say that I can’t believe how well Max and Georgia behaved the entire time? Allen and I really are lucky to have such portable kiddos.

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The child will NOT leave shoes on.
Speaking of kiddos, Max could really us this . . .
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Although he'd probably rather have these . . .
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I already bought a bunch of outdoor furniture at Springfield a few years ago. But man, I was definitely tempted by the goodies there. Fun stuff for the garden, too.
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Lots of antique sewing tables, accessories, and quilts . . .

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And, of course, lovely kitsch everywhere. The kitsch is what makes it, truly.

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Our group, taking a quick break.
I’m already thinking about coming back next month, and about Springfield! I still need a good bench for the garden and a small table that can function as an art table for the kids. And maybe some vintage toys that aren’t too expensive (and don’t look too hazardous for a toddler who still wants to put everything in his mouth). And that other plate and candlestick for my 3-tiered masterpiece. And pretty much whatever else calls to me

Oh, and we’ve already eaten our first meal at the new table. I love that hundreds of meals have probably been enjoyed at this table. Discussions, stories, arguments, jokes, tears, big announcements—they’re all part of our table’s history.

That’s why I love vintage.
 
 
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So, as the first two posts in this series illustrate, I enjoyed myself shopping at the fabulous International Quilt Festival last weekend! But that’s only half the story: the show was also a display of the best, most innovative and beautiful quilts from around the world.

I wish I would have had more time to really soak in these quilts. But I knew that my toddler, Max, was sick at home (and my husband desperately needed a break).  I sped through the exhibits much too fast, and I missed some categories altogether. But I left feeling sufficiently inspired in the end.

I’ve tried to identify all of the quilt names and artists (except for that shot above, which I just snapped quickly on my way out without writing the names down. oops.). Photography was prohibited on about one-fourth of the quilts, so there are some things I can’t share. But here are the ones I loved the most, all for different reasons, and in no particular order.
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This one is from the Text on Textiles category. How genius is that as a category? It's a quote from Oscar Wilde (if you're going to quote someone and make an entire quilt from it, I can't think of anyone better than Oscar Wilde). It's called "Wilde Ideas - Strings Attached," by Lisa ONeill.

Anyone who knows me, knows that I love purses! So this one jumped out at me from across the room. It's called "Fashion in Motion," by Diane Dempsey, and was inspired by Matisse (I can definitely see that).
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People were gathered around these tumbling blocks in awe (the quilt is called "Tumbling in Space,") and I don't know that my picture really represents how 3D they actually looked. The artist, Marva M. Swanson, used hand-dye gradated fabrics to get the effect. Regina Carter quilted it.
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These next four are from the Oh, Canada category. Oh, Canada indeed. It's seriously beautiful country, as these artists have shown. My pictures, in order, are of:
1. "Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow," by Carol Steely of British Columbia (this is her favorite west coast vista).
2. "Vancouver City Scape at Dusk" by Terry Aske
3. "Call it the Blues," by Helena Scheffer of Quebec
4. "A Parliament of Owls," by Carol Goddu of Ontario
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I think my love for yo-yos is pretty well documented at this point, which is why this quilt—handmade entirely out of yo-yos—fascinated me. There's not a single machine stitch in this quilt (which is really, really large). It's called "Good Morning Sunshine" and the artist, Marion Gagliardi, was inspired by a yo-yo quilt her grandmother made 100 years ago. Thanks for keeping the tradition alive, Marion!
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These next two are positively radiant in their color choices. The first one is called "Marilyn" and the artist, Andrea Stern, was inspired by the water towers near her house and how they look different in different lights and seasons (I wonder if she wasn't a little inspired by Warhol, too?). It's totally brilliant. And the other one is "Stairway to Heaven," by Sally Wright. She was inspired by Wells Cathedral in England.
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I'm going to close with "Florilegium," by Pat Kroth. It reminds me of everything I love about my garden (everything but the 10 bags of mulch sitting in the driveway, still waiting to be spread). Looking at this quilt makes me feel extremely optimistic.

So, thank you, amazing quilters, for sharing your visions and your talents with the quilting community. And thanks for bringing it right to my doorstep!
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Let's see, where did I leave off? In the middle of shopping, I think. I was actually very restrained at the show and hardly bought anything. Now, as I recount everything and review all the pics of cool stuff I took, I'm having non-buyer's remorse and wishing I would have snatched more up. I'm still thinking about those awesome vintage plastic buttons. Ah well, flea market season is just around the corner.

So, back to my favorite vendors.
  Betsy Ally/Charmography had a really awesome booth. The Betsy Ally bags were so pretty. These broaches from Charmography were so lovely, and the cupcake display was genius. 
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Why didn't I buy one of these adorable broaches? Sigh.
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Cupcakes are the new best marketing strategy for pretty much anything and everything.
Have I mentioned the fabulous wool yet? Two that caught my eye were Woolylady  and Handbehg Felts. These pillows from Woolylady are little jewels. I want that bird pillow bad! Luckily kits are available on her site, too, right here.
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The felted balls at Handbehg Felts made me absolutely giddy. It’s amazing what you can do with these little hand-felted wool balls they sell (their tagline is “a project waiting to happen”—which really is perfect). They sell them in various sizes and colors, and you can re-shape them according to what you're making. They also sell kits. How adorable are these Easter eggs? And the pillow would look pretty great on my couch.

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I’ll leave you with a few more of my favorite images. Up next, the quilts on display!
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Pattern by Johna Lee Burk from the Scrappy Apple Yard
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Also from the Scrappy Apple, I think (can't find a listing for that booth either though)
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So my little town of Cincinnati finally did something right! Somehow, Cincy bagged the International Quilt Festival, held this past weekend at the Duke Energy Convention Center. When I heard about this last year, I circled the weekend on my calendar, and had visions of spending the entire weekend downtown. But as it turned out, between a sick kid, work, and two birthday parties, I only had a few hours on Saturday to go. So I tried to pack in as much as I could. I wasn’t disappointed.

I’ve never been to any of the Quilts, Inc. quilt shows or quilt market events, so I didn’t know what to expect. The shopping side of the Festival is aimed at consumers (versus to the Trade, like Quilt Market), and the quilts themselves on display are amazing works of art. I’m going to do a series of posts, starting with the vendor-side and what struck me the most. Here are a few snapshots from the walkway that overlooks the convention floor. There was a couple standing next to me when I took this shot, and the guy turned to his wife and said, “See honey, there’s not one single man down there.”
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I saw women of all ages (including a Girl Scout troop), but I’d say the average age was about 55, which is similar to the CHA SuperShow I went to last year. I feel like an event like this skews slightly older, and many of the vendor booths seemed to support that demographic. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t variety or that it felt “old” or out of touch with what’s going on. In fact, it felt vibrant and exciting, and there was truly something for every taste. It was focused on pretty traditional quilting (versus clothing or tons of accessories), but no sewer would walk away uninspired. There were a lot of machine exhibitors and demonstrations, along with gobs of fabric, mixed media stuff, felt and other specialty stuff, accessories (like buttons), and then gobs more fabric.

As it turns out, my favorite booth was the second one I visited: Things Past & Present (no web site, since they focus on selling at markets. Too bad, b/c now I wish I had bought more from them!). I chatted with co-owner Tom Orr (his wife Cheryl is his business partner). Their display of vintage buttons called to me. It screamed at me, truthfully. I mean, look at this gorgeousness.
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I wound up buying some 1940s plastic buttons, along with a lovely French button from the 1950s, and one of the cameo buttons. Tom and Cheryl have spotters all over the country looking for stuff for them. They get feedsacks like this one from the Midwest (they had a nice selection, but they were pricier than I pay for feedsacks), and lots of antique quilt squares from New England. They also buy from Brimfield (I MUST go at some point). I also loved the 19th century French fabric they had; Tom told me that designers usually snatch this stuff up because it’s so old that it’s not copyrighted anymore, so modern fabric designers can re-do it.

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There was plenty of love everywhere for Kaffe Fassett. Fat quarter, half-yard, and one-yard cuts were on sale everywhere. Love fests of color everywhere!
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Kaffe Fassett from The Sampler (www.the-sampler.com)
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Great hand-dyed fabric
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rows of orderly color!
The Vogue Fabrics was hopping. I could get seriously lost in this stack of batiks.
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But the piece of fabric I absolutely could not walk away from was this Melody Miller print, which I bought at the Artistic Artifacts booth (where everything was eye candy, like the great vintage trims and mixed media vignettes). (They sell it at their web site too, right here.)
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 The stuff at Hmong Pan Dau Needlework booth blew me away. I fell in love with these tiny purses, crafted in such exquisite detail.

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I was trying to find a reason to get one of these little quilt squares. I almost bought one, but instead, it was the mermaids I couldn’t walk away from. I actually did walk away, and then I had to come back five minutes later to buy one. I have no idea why. I’ve never had a mermaid fascination before. But I HAD to have one of these little creatures.
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More later! I still have more booths to report on, and of course--the many, many amazing quilts. Stay tuned . . .
 
 
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Look at this lovely little graphic that Pat Sloan put together for me! Tune in TODAY at 4 pm EST to hear me talk about Sew Retro. Listen to the show live, or if you can't tune in today, you can always use that link to download the show as a podcast. I'm looking forward to it!

Also, I'm doing a giveaway of Sew Retro with Pat. To enter, post a comment on her blog by Friday, April 8, at noon EST. I'll send a signed copy of Sew Retro to the lucky winner!
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