Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Christmas gifts and decorations

Tis time for some holiday cheer and preparations for gifts and decorations as only quilters and needleworkers can do. It takes time to do these projects and even starting now might find us stitching at the eleventh hour on the holiday eve. That seemed to have become a tradition with my mother-in-law. Each year found her and maybe some of her elves (daughters and granddaughters) working on stuffed toys, quilts or clothing for one of her 16 grandchildren.

Nobody says old fashioned Christmas quite like Debbie Mumm and her delightful primitive holiday patterns such as this free Santa Door Banner pattern. Of course she has many more beautiful creations with patterns available in her book, Quick Country Christmas Projects.

Also featured on that same site is a free flying geese pattern to make Christmas stockings. Although I particularly like the table runner with the pieced poinsettia motif.

While thinking of the holidays, Jennifer Chiaverini has written an Elm Creek Quilts novel just for the season with the apt title: The Christmas Quilt. The entire series embraces the art of quilting as well as the women who make them.

A Beary Merry Christmas has been around for several years, but the pattern continues to warm my heart whenever I chance upon it. The free pattern is available here.

Of course memory quilts make great gifts any time of the year, but maybe during the holiday that celebrates family, they are even more beloved. I particularly like the quilt book "Memory Quilts in the Making" compiled and edited by Rhonda Richards for Oxmoor House.

A Redwork quilt is also beautiful at any time of the year, but seems perfectly suited for a Christmas quilt. You could take coloring book pages and embroidered them on squares and set them together with Christmas patterned fabric or alternate them with star squares or turn them into pillows. Here is just one of an endless number of Internet sites that feature coloring book pages.

A story quilt of the nativity seems in order, too. I have a basic pattern of the holy family that I am hoping to make this year. But I also stumbled across this lovely quilt that may also make its way into my 'to be made' pile of quilt patterns, books and ideas.

For a variety of Christmas quilts where you might come up with ideas for your own original, check out Forever in Season. Well, maybe this will whet your appetite and get you started on the seasonal gifts. Or perhaps you'd like to just start making charity quilts to donate for this season of giving? If so, don't forget the dogs and cats as well as babies, homeless, sick, war torn, or those whose loved ones are fighting in the military.

Of course there are other holidays -- Thanksgiving, Hanuka, Veteran's Day.... all good reasons for quilt making.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Spiders and quilts

Spiders are especially popular during this Halloween season. From candle holders to quilts and everything inbetween. Check out this site for spider inspired table settings and towels.

My grandmother's crazy memory quilt includes a spider web embroidered on it. Apparently spider webs are a common motif for crazy quilts. I'm not sure why. Maybe because spiders are such creative artists? Emily Dickinson recognized their merit.

"THE SPIDER as an artist
Has never been employed
Though his surpassing merit
Is freely certified

By every broom and Bridget
Throughout a Christian land.
Neglected son of genius,

I take thee by the hand."

~ Emily Dickinson

Or maybe spider webs have something to do with memories and old, or nature, or the fragile aspects of beauty? Or maybe those women were just into creepy crawly stuff? I would bet they mean good luck. After all spider webs have healing properties, can staunch blood flow and aren't bacteria laden so they don't cause infections when used with open wounds. They are ingeniously made....

Well, the spider quilt continues to be a favorite and the web has several examples from a child's doll quilt with the "Itsy Bitsy Spider" poem and embroidery, to a full-sized quilt for a son complete with embroidered spiders. A spider legs pattern looks inviting, too. HGTV offers a Halloween version of a spider pillow if you're looking for a holiday themed project.

The spider's den quilt block brings together my favorite nine patch and triangles for a fun project that isn't too challenging for a beginner like me. There's a great site online, "How to Quilt" that is a great help to beginner quilters.

If you have the chance to see spiders in their natural habitat, take time to appreciate their artistic abilities and forget creepy crawly.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Just for Fun

I like strolling around the Internet looking for quilts. Almost like hiking the Milky Way with glorious vistas and views and surprises lurking at every turn -- or so I would imagine. I Googled the words Just for Fun Quilts and up popped a delightful blog featuring photos and descriptions of the most extraordinary 'fun' quilts in Paducah, Kentucky. The blogger's name is Dawn -- good name -- and her home is Illinois, a place I've lived for several years in another life. And her choices in books pretty much match mine. She's a Diana Gabaldon fan, too. I was drawn to the 'favorite things' quilt she photographed and described. It has a kaleidoscopic design of favorite things that give them a rather mysterious artistic twist.

Continuing my search for 'fun' quilts, I turned to origami and saw the lovely flowers and embellishments we see on quilts these days. And then I discovered Niti Goyal's site of pleated, origami and smocked pillows, scarves, clothing and bedding. Or as she describes it "three dimensional wearable [and usable] art."

Wearable origami clothing has its own name: Orinuno and gives a quilter and crafter and lover of fabric a head full of ideas for quilt or clothing embellishments. Fabric folding with a holiday theme already has several books available to offer ideas and how-tos. Check out Simple Fabric Folding for Halloween or her Simple Fabric Folding for Christmas, both by Liz Aneloski.

The ultimate fun quilt for someone like me involves words, stories and quilting. Mary Lou Weidman has combined all of those elements in her story quilts. What a great jumping off place to make up your own story quilt. Topics are only limited by your own imagination. From Teddy Bear picnics to fairy tales and favorite books, to an anecdote from your own life. This type quilts give you freedom to use fabrics that you may have shied away from in the past. Maybe make a holiday story quilt based upon your family's own traditions. My mother-in-law always served spaghetti and meatballs on Christmas -- I can just see a spaghetti border with trios of meatballs like holly berries....

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Art for Autism

Autism is a brain development disorder that affects social interaction, communication and behavior and occurs in children age three and younger. The rate of autism has risen dramatically, but research has not come up with a cause or a cure.

Artist Claudine Intner offers her art in an effort to raise funds for autism research.

She explained, "During the month of October, I am having an online exhibition and fundraiser for autism. The project, called Art Now for Autism, includes the work of 26 artists including fiber, photography, mixed media, painting, etc. Money raised will go to Autism Speaks. We have raised $2,185 so far!"

The online exhibit is fun, inspiring, and the cause is worthwhile. Plus it is an opportunity to pick up a fine piece of art.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Crafts make a difference

I'm so excited that Al Gore won the Nobel Prize. And equally excited to have found his Current TV website with the most informative videos in one location on all topics. Including that dear to our hearts -- handmade.

In the video below, crafts and creating have become a vital part of the economy. Makes me proud to be a crafter even if I haven't risen to artist status.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Books to consider, charities to support

Giving is such an integral part of the quilting community. Charities abound and Fiberart for a Cause contributes greatly to the American Cancer Society. Illinois art quilter Virginia Spiegel contacted me today to announce the availability of her new book that also donates proceeds to charity.

I highly recommend Virginia's art and must admit that I have fallen for her bittersweet activist quilt: 400 Songbirds. The story behind it is heart wrenching. Her songbird was included in an article I wrote last year about activist quilters. Such a talented group who displayed their quilts in Thelma Smith's exhibit: Changing the World One Thread at a Time.

Here's the news about Virginia's book:
"Art, Nature, Creativity, Life" by Virginia A. Spiegel is now available with 100% of the proceeds going directly to the American Cancer Society.

"Art, Nature, Creativity, Life" is stuffed with essays; art, art, and more art; recommended books for artists, nature lovers, gardeners and other creative types; over 80 inspirational photos; more than 35 haikus, and much, much more. The nineteen chapters are greatly expanded versions of the best issues of Spiegel's e-newsletter of the same name.

For ordering information, reviews, and more information about this web-based book, please click here.

Another book, concentrates on a delightfully complete coverage of quilt history, including the movement in the quilting communities to support charities through stitches, is The Quilt by Elise Schebler Roberts etc.

I'm always looking for books about my favorite subjects and by my favorite people -- quilts and quilters.

Ami Simms has a charity-related book out, that features the fifty-two quilts that were on exhibit since August 2006 in support of her ongoing Alzheimer Disease fundraiser. The 112 page book Alzheimer's: Forgetting Piece by Piece includes more than 160 photographs, all in color.