Tips and tricks

I spent last weekend at a quilt retreat. What a mental shift! From working hard at the office to a lovely retreat center in northern Wisconsin where the leaves were in "full color," surrounded by 25 or so women and one man who all came together to take a class and learn something new.

Now I've been quilting for years, but I'm not really big on taking classes. I suppose it makes sense, given that I'm in the business that I'm in (magazine publishing), that I mostly teach myself new techniques from books or magazines or just sketch out a quilt and figure out how best to construct it. But a few months back, when I was looking for something to shake up my creativity, my friend, Laurie Baker, mentioned a quilt class she'd taken and highly recommended the instructor, Sharyn Craig. This is BIG PRAISE coming from a publishing pal, so I did a little research and found this retreat practically in my backyard. (Okay, technically four or five hours north, near the top of the state, but still.) My friend was right, the teacher was great! The project, a scrap half-log cabin, wasn't difficult, but Sharyn has worked out an ingenious method for constructing the blocks that lets the blocks appear "scrappy" without having to labor over the decisions of what goes where. (Her method goes VERY quickly!) And her tips and suggestions and recommendations along the way were the big reward, in my opinion. For instance, we all exchanged fabric strips first thing, so we all had a similar mix of fabrics. I had debated over leaving out a few of the strips (that was permitted), as I worried how they'd look in the overall project, so I set the stacks that contained them aside for "later". Sure enough, I saw them in someone else's quilt and she was struggling with the boldness of them. Though the instructor gave suggestions on how to deal with the "interrupters", I opted to pull them out of my blocks and save them for a brighter quilt, for which I have MANY scraps at home and will probably make next. Those tips—learning from someone else's experience—is the difference between learning from a book and taking a class.

I was able to finish 84 blocks in my workshop. I probably could have made more, but I was running low on fabric strips. But Monday and Tuesday nights, I cut the strips for 140 more blocks and, last night, I put together 28. My best friend Janet, who I've known since I was a teenager, moved into her new home yesterday and has had a devil of a time finding a quilt she likes. I stopped by her new house on the way home from the retreat to see the house and to show her the blocks. I hoped to look at them together, as she had an empty living room and an open staircase. As we arranged the blocks on that living room floor and ran up the stairs to take a peek, she "oohed" and "aahed". And that's when I knew my blocks would have a happy home there. I'm hoping to have it done and quilted by Halloween—wish me luck!


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