March 26, 2009

A New Reference for Flat!

Being raised in Iowa, I always felt the brunt of people saying that Iowa was one flat cornfield. To me, it is beautiful, rich, productive, rolling farmland—a patchwork of corn, beans and hay fields, dotted with white farm homes!

When Richard and I moved to Kansas for his first job after college, I learned to defend Iowa by comparing it to Kansas, which is really flat, but tilted. I think driving to Colorado from Wichita, Kansas, you drive at a slight angle uphill all the way.

But, after enjoying several very nice drives around Easton, St. Michaels, Royal Oaks, etc., in Maryland, my impression was that the elevation never varied 5 feet. That is flat! I could probably ride a bike there!

Harris’s Crab House
On the way back to the Baltimore airport, Sherry discovered I had never “picked” a crab and decided I shouldn't leave without that experience. Before:

And after!

The most obvious thing about picking crab is that it is a lot of work for the amount of food. Locals and other afficianadoes know it is not just about the food, but also, and more importantly, the fun and the attitude adjustment that goes along with picking crab! It wasn’t the season for Maryland crab, so we were actually eating Louisiana crab. Sherry assured me that Maryland crab is the best! She was a great coach, but I’m not sure I could do it again without a refresher course! I found a great tutorial on picking crab here.

March 24, 2009

A Little History about Quilting Books

A nice bonus of my trip to Maryland was having a chance to catch up with Susan McKelvey. Our friendship goes back a long time. Today, quilters are easily overwhelmed by the enormous quantity of books available. Back in 1969, when I started quilting, there were virtually no current books about quilting. In 1972, my husband Richard and I started a patchwork kit company called Yours Truly, Inc. It quickly mushroomed into a full quilting supply company with fabrics, notions, batting, patterns and kits made under the brand name "Yours Truly".

The few quilting books published in the early ’70s by traditional publishing houses were not available to quilt shops. In 1975 Gail Giberson’s father, who published tole-painting books, published Primarily Patchwork by Gail and Marjorie Puckett, and it could be bought by quilt shops and fabric stores. Inspired by that book, we felt we could do the same. After all, at Yours Truly, we had Richard’s knowledge of the printing industry, my journalism degree and eye for talent, and Pat Wilens’ technical and editing skills. Pat was our graphics supervisor at the time.

By early 1978, we had become the first company to publish quilting books exclusively for quilt and fabric stores. Our first book was Successful Machine Appliqué by Barbara Lee.

Susan McKelvey was one of “our authors” with her first book, Color for Quilters.

We were also the first publishers of Marianne Fons and Liz Porter, Mary Ellen Hopkins, Jean Wells, Cheryl Bradkin, and Chris Wolf Edmonds, as well as several other talented quilters who are no longer active in the industry.

In the years from 1978 until 1985, when Yours Truly was sold, we printed and sold close to 2 million copies of books. Several of the titles remained available for another 10 or 15 years. We have always been very proud of the Yours Truly books and their impact on the quilt world.

The Bayside Quilters – Easton, “Delmarva”

Ever since I read James Michener’s book Chesapeake, I wanted to visit this area. A couple of years ago, Sherry Burke called and extended the invitation on behalf of the Bayside Quilters of Easton, Maryland, on the “Eastern shore”. It is on the Delmarva Peninsula that is shared by parts of Delaware, Virginia and Maryland. For many years, that long peninsula was not connected by bridges to either Maryland or Virginia.

Sherry and her husband Terry had been my hosts when I taught in Nashville, Tennessee in 1991, and would be my hosts again. I was not disappointed; it was a beautiful area, not to mention a beautiful home on the water! Sherry says they feel like their blood pressure drops 15 points when they cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.

Cathy Morin picked me up in Baltimore and gave me a great tour of Annapolis on the way to Easton. It is a charming and historic town. If I knew, I did not remember that Annapolis was also the temporary capital of the United States during 1783 and ’84 and was said to have been George Washington’s choice for the permanent capital. The guild was great and very nice, and I had two great days.

I’m Afraid to Cut this Fabric!
In the Kaleidoscope class with the Bayside Quilters, Janie Kelting showed up with a fabulous 1974 Indonesian fabric. It had major family attachment. She was thinking of making a special project with it and thought it perfect for the Kaleidoscope block.

Isn't this a great fabric? It's going to make a great Kaleidoscope quilt!

Because of the very limited quantity, I recommended that Janie make multiple photocopies of the fabric from selvage to selvage and cut paper pieces to see if she liked the newly created designs before ever cutting fabric. This is a good idea any time you want to "try out" a special fabric, especially if the quantity is limited.

Another way to audition blocks before cutting fabric is by working with mirrors, as discussed and shown in our book Kaleidoscope ABCs. For one of the quilts in the book, I previewed a Jinny Beyer border stripe to see how the blocks would look:

Then I couldn't wait to cut up the fabric! All the blocks in my "Stunning Stripes" quilt came from that one border stripe.

The more I thought about Janie's fabric, and the more she and I talked about it, we both wondered if it is a textile that should not be cut, but treated as a whole cloth quilt instead. How do you feel about it?

March 9, 2009

Ever Had a Marionberry?

I first learned of Marionberries a few years ago at Don's Drive-In, a great restaurant in Portland. The Marionberry is a hybrid blackberry created by the Oregon State University Agricultural Research and Development team and released into production in 1956. It is distinctively sweet, yet tart, a real delicacy if you love berries! The Marionberry was named after the county where it was developed. If it had been named after the head researcher, it would have been the Waldoberry! 90% of the Marionberries grown in the world are grown near Salem, Oregon, in the Willamette Valley, making them a frequent delicacy on Oregon restaurant menus.

If you are ever in Puyallup for Sew Expo, or any other reason, and you would like to sample this luscious delicacy, then go directly to Don’s Drive-in just across the street from the Western Washington Fairgrounds, where Sew Expo is held.

One of the first years that we went to Puyallup, we went to Don’s for lunch and discovered that they are famous for homemade pies. I spotted Marionberry pie on the menu and a tradition was born! Ever since, we treat ourselves to piece of Marionberry pie on the day we set up our booth. Mmmm!

Got to See the Grandsons!

…and their parents, too! Our son and his family live in a Seattle suburb, so the annual Sew Expo trip always gives us a chance to see them, even if it is briefly. When we first put up our Website, we included this picture of me with the boys.

I’ve been meaning to update that picture and got a chance to pull them aside at a restaurant for a picture. This is what they look like now.

Ooops, the really tall one in the back is painted on the wall of the restaurant! There are only two grandsons. Carter just turned 17, and Conrad is soon to be 13. This picture is the proof of what I knew was coming - I am now the shortest one in the family!

How do you say "Puyallup"?

I go with "pew – all – up", but some say "pew- Al – up" What I know for sure is, it is not "Poo –al – up"! It is always viewed with fear of mispronunciation. I noticed when there was major flooding there in January, putting Puyallup in the center of national news, those broadcasters chose to say simply "Washington"!

Whatever you call it, Puyallup is the home of the Western Washington Fair Grounds. Several of the buildings on the fairgrounds are used for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo. Specifically, the Showplex building shown here is where you would find the From Marti Michell/Michell Marketing booth.

Our booth is always decorated with lots of quilts. This is one side of the booth:

The show started slowly as everyone in the Seattle area woke up to a surprise snowstorm on the first morning of the show. Traffic was jammed, school openings were delayed and some schools were closed. Many people’s plans for trips to Sew Expo that day were disrupted. Fortunately, the snow did not last long and it turned out to be a very good show.

One of the unique things about this show is the large offering of 45-minute lecture/demo classes. My talks were all held in this huge white tent.

Here are about half of the 200 people at one of my lectures.

And here are the other half! :) Thank you everyone for spending time with me!

The shows are hard work, but I have a great show crew. Each one brings different areas of expertise to the group, both quilting experience and “real world” skills, but most of all they bring smiling faces, good spirit and wonderful attitudes! They are great to work with.

Shown above, from left to right, are Brenda Asmus from San Antonio; Diane Gabb, Chicago; Marilyn Paul, San Pedro, CA; Me; Chris Kenck, Seattle; and Stacy Michell, Atlanta. All but Chris are From Marti Michell Educators and we are working on Chris! Stacy has her own company and her Shades Textiles booth is right next to ours, but at shows we think of ourselves as one team. Not pictured is Richard Michell, who came out for a long weekend. It was fun to have him help hold quilts at two of my lectures and be in the booth during some of our busiest times.

Quilting is a Passionate Hobby

You might have read in an earlier post that I was headed for the Sewing and Stitchery Expo in Puyallup, WA. This was the 25th anniversary event. The 25,000 or more attendees are dedicated sewers, quilters and stitchers. So dedicated that one gal was telling us that she had even included in her Christmas letter that she and her friend Nancy already had their tickets and hotel room for their trip to Sew Expo. Only problem was that the spell check feature on her computer accepted her typo bragging about her trip to the “sex expo”! Oops!

Another lady said she and her husband had hoped to be in Hawaii for their 40th anniversary this weekend, but it hadn’t worked out. "So," she said with a happy smile, "I got to come to Sew Expo after all!"

But, my favorite was the lady who said her husband was scheduled for hip replacement surgery on March 11 (Expo ended March 1). There was a cancellation and he had a chance to move it up to February 24. She said, “I told him, it is your choice, but I’m going to Sew Expo this weekend!” Then she smiled and said, “Besides, it gives him a chance to bond more with his children if I’m not there!”