Thanksgiving Dinner with Friends (Before Thanksgiving)

I have to work this Thanksgiving, so I was invited to have lunch as Thanksgiving dinner with some friends. Sabrina’s Restaurant in Hazel Crest has long been a favorite for many people I know, including myself. However, I haven’t been there in years. Like since before I moved back to Illinois of graduate school in 2006. The food was delicious as ever-Southern soul food cooking fan fare. I had the catfish, greens, yams and mashed potatoes and gravy with Johnny cakes. Having Angelica’s Bakery next door made desert to go wonderful to make the moment last longer with a cup of coffee for the sewing marathon I was going to have that evening.


Red Apple Buffet

Red Apple BuffetThis whole year has felt like mercury retrograde for me, not just the retrograde periods. The good part has been getting together with people who I haven’t seen in a very long time. I went to dinner with a friend named Kay who was the one who told me that Northwestern University had a creative writing program because she went to one of their student readings that was held around Chicago.

She tells me about orchestra musicals and plays that turn out to be good artist dates. I tell her about author discussions that I know about. I’d never go to a Polish buffet before, so she told me about a popular place called the Red Apple Buffet. I am not sure of what I was expecting, but it was classic American buffet cuisine mixed in with Polish food. Why didn’t I figure that out for myself? I’m not sure but caught up with each other. And while eating cheese blintzes, it was an enjoyable retrograde good time.


Women and Children First Bookstore

Women and Children First Bookstore has always been a long standing favorite artist date for me since graduate school. It is also good that it is down the block from Andie’s Restaurant, one of my favorite restaurants in the entire city of Chicago.

Clark Street between Foster and Berwyn, has long been a hangout for me. And it also helps that I saw writer and quilter Mary Fons perform her one woman show Carol Burnett’s Daughter just down the street years ago!

The children’s section is one of the best I have ever seen. The author discussions and readings range from feminism to risk taking in fiction to the metaphysical. And men are always welcome as my former professor Michael Mc Colly was years ago when his memoir was released.

As usual, I had a great time.

Professional Art Quilt Alliance (PAQA)

I met with this group about 10 years ago and it is funny how things repeat themselves. After the Macy’s show, I can now honestly say I am ready to meet with them. Again, the Quilt Fest Oasis event by Mancuso Show Management really inspired me to do whatever it is I had to do to take this to the next level. My work schedule is genuinely crazy for the past 15 years, but for now, it has allowed me to be able to make regular meetings. Finally.

They have been doing the same thing for years: meeting up the second Wednesday morning every month, same time. They do show and tell of their latest art quilt projects. They give information about how to enter into the national quilting exhibits and magazines. The people are very friendly and nice. Staying to talk is a real treat. Learning from the wisdom of other professional art quilters is a real treat:

Chicago Botanical Gardens Fine Art of Fiber Show 2015

Fine Art of Fiber 2015It’s the most wonderful time of the year! For textile artists that is! The Chicago Botanical Gardens had the annual Fine Art of Fiber Show sponsored by the North Shore Weaver’s Guild and the Illinois Quilter’s Incorporated (IQI).

I am also a member of IQI, as well as the Chicago Fiber Arts Meet Up and Needles and Threads Quilting Guild. I’ve been looking forward to this show since the last show 12 months ago! And the Chicago Botanical Gardens is one of the most beautiful places to have this art instillation.

Thankfully, it wasn’t too hot or too cold, so some of the flowers were still out and visible. The quilts and parasols were breathtaking up close. The food was incredible! I had lunch, but also purchased some food for my evening shift at work, just to make the moment last longer.

I had to run past the vendors, but stopped in the gift shop to purchase a children’s book called Lady Bug Girl by David Sorman and Jacky Davis. And, once again, I was grateful to be around people who understood the magic that textiles can bring.

Joanie Zeier Poole’s Heirloom Machine Quilting Workshop

This machine quilting workshop may not have come exactly when I needed it to, but it did come just in time. I am a little frustrated sending my work to long arm quilters. So sorry to all the long arm quilters out there! I had to learn machine quilting myself, even if I didn’t have a long arm sewing machine.

I worked until 11 pm the night before, came home, slept for a few hours, awakened with a positive attitude and everything on my final supply list, but a free motion foot and a darning/quilting foot. Having these items would have made the process easier because you need those things in order to get through machine quilting! I found out by looking through the final supply list by the fifth time that I didn’t have them! Still, with the machine quilting fairies making elaborate designs in my head, I drove to Madison, Wisconsin, drinking coffee and listening to dance music on Kiss FM, until the station faded out in Rockford, Illinois. Then, I switched to my Shelia E CD.

The local Husqvarna Viking sewing Joanie's Machine Quilting Workshopstore opened at 9 am, the same time my machine quilting class started, but luckily it didn’t start right away. All they had was a free motion foot, which I purchased and used all weekend while taking copious notes. There were more issues when I got there. I had the larger Coats and Clark thread, which made issues with nesting under my fabric bundles. I had a demonstration in Chicago, but still had issues loading my bobbin and threading my machine, but I ascertained that this was all mind over matter. Again, enough was enough. I was machine quilting and that was that.

Joanie was one of the best teachers I had. She was patient and kind and nurturing. She has taught at Road to California and the Pacific International Quilt Festival hosted by Mancuso Show Management. Her work is in the American Quilt Society’s Museum and she learned how to do machine quilting by another art quilter who has had dozens of exhibits throughout museums across the country. She said she had taken this exact same class 15 years ago, so she empathized with any fear and frustration I had.

Joanie gave the pros and cons of buying a long arm, which include having space and, of course, money for it. But when you have made it up in your mind that textiles are apart of your life, you just won’t stop. You keep going, long arm or no long arm. And while I still have the eye sight, manual dexterity and enthusiasm, I plan to keep going.

An Artist Dinner

An Artist Dinner 1An Artist Dinner 2I was honored to be invited to dinner at the home of Mary McCoffey, my curator from my Macy’s art instillation earlier this year. It was a festive event and the food was wonderful: chicken, Brussels sprouts (one of my personal favorites!), mashed potatoes, gravy, bread and mango sorbet for dessert.

After my friends at Quilt Fest Oasis saw the art quilt I made for the Macy’s show, they suggested that I might want to look into children’s book publishing because there were some art quilters we knew who were making a living both writing and creating art quilts as illustrations for children’s books. I took their suggestion to heart.

People flowed in from out of state for Mary’s dinner, just like they did for the Macy’s show. As Chicagoans, we referred them to the Art Institute of Chicago and they made recommendations to me for an upcoming trip I was trying to take to New York for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators writers’ conference (SCBWI). “Make sure you get there a day early,” Mary’s out of state company told me. “There is an art quilt museum in the Fashion District you need to see.”

Conversation inevitably turned to art: what it is, what it isn’t and, because creative expression is so individualized, it is difficult to place lines of demarcation, such as “high art” and “low art” on anything.

“Just because a piece of art is not something you would put on your wall, listen to or read yourself, doesn’t mean it isn’t art,” Mary said. She also said something else: “When I curated the Macy’s art instillation earlier this year, I was gathering my artists together. One of them said, ‘I will agree to do the show only if you agree to write and make some visual art yourself. You need to know what this is like.’ So I took on the challenge. I went to Lil Street and took a painting class. And let me tell you, it was the most frustrating and rewarding experience ever. So when I hear people say, ‘Oh that’s not art,’ I now say, ‘Have you picked up a paint brush and tried this for yourself?’”

It made my day!

A Husqvarna Viking Sewing Machine Dream Come True!

I had to pinch myself. I just bought a brand new Husqvarna Viking Sewing machine! I wasn’t planning on it. I had obtained an old 1970s Montgomery Ward sewing machine with all metal parts for $45 from a Chicago pawn shop. I even downloaded a copy of the owner’s manual online. I met a woman named Mac who had previously owned her own quilt shop. She handled my old sewing machine and told me, “This is an oldie, but a goodie! Great job on finding it!” I had my family to thank for teaching me the ways of discount shopping.

But quite frankly, I cannot afford a Bernina or a long arm right now. And the truth of the matter is that when you are in a situation like that and you plan to take on some large quilting projects, the older model machines with all metal parts work very well if you can find one. But not having up to date parts or someone standing over you to tell you all the time what to do was challenging. But my recent long arm bills and a recent trip to Quilt Fest Oasis placed me in a place of mental fortitude. I didn’t care about the complication of machine quilting anymore. I was going to do this. Finally.

I was told by someone in the Chicago Fiber Arts Meet Up that one of the best places in the city to go to was the Singer sewing store on Irving Park Road if I ever needed anything (and I did).

While at the Chicago International Quilt Festival, I learned about a machine quilting workshop that was taking place in Madison, Wisconsin this year. I needed to have lessons on how to work this 1970s sewing machine, so I called all around until the Singer store on Irving Park Road told me to come in. As soon as I sat my old clunker down, I saw Husqvarna Viking sewing machines as far as the eye can see on sale! I wanted a Husqvarna Viking when I purchased my Singer in 2006! It is rare to see them on sale. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and New Years Day specials were out of the question. With this type of machinery, you have to get it a month in advance of Black Friday because by Black Friday, everyone has bought your sewing machine.

I had a positive recommendation from someone I trusted in the Chicago Fiber Arts Meet Up. And I’d signed on with my machine quilting class to let the universe know that I was serious about my commitment.

Machine quilting is already a daunting task. Why make the process more difficult with a machine I could barely use? I took a deep breath and said, “Tell me about your Husqvarna Viking sewing machine.”

“Well,” the sales lady said, “It does the dishes! It mops the floors! It scrubs the tile and the bathroom and it pays the bills!”

“Well, for the cost,” I said, “it had better.”

I managed to walk out of a major quilt store opening in September with nothing more than hand quilting thread in my hand, but not this time. No, this time I was with a dozen Husqvarna Viking sewing machines on sale. And somehow I knew I wasn’t about to get as lucky by walking out with hand quilting thread.

The Singer I had in 2006 was taken over by my mother. The 1970s Montgomery Ward sewing machine went to someone who was about to take a local sewing class. And I went home with my Husqvarna Viking sewing machine. At last.Huskvarna Viking Sewing Machine

Quilt Fest Oasis Palm Springs 2015

So I went back again this year! I dreamt of this place for 12 months straight months! I was especially sold after I heard Alyson Allen was going to do a Maya Angelo Quilt exhibit. I had to be there! Allyson Allen is a textile artist and teacher who was featured on a Time Warner Cable special about quilters.

There is also a book called A Communion of Spirits by Roland L. Freeman that I highly recommend. Roland L. Freeman’s family made quilts when he was growing up. As an adult, he worked for National Geographic and Time Magazine as a photographer. He profiled African American quilters all across the country for a 20 year period.

As a direct result, he talked to Maya Angelo before she died. The book features a picture of Maya Angelo when she was alive with the quilts she made when she was going through writer’s block. Her mother recommended quilting when she felt creatively stumped. Alice Walker ironically quilts when she goes through writer’s block. Alice Walker is also featured in the book with the quilts she made when she was writing The Color Purple.

As far as Quilt Fest Oasis Palm Springs is concerned, I took Allyson Allen’s Fabric Journal class. Much like when I had joined my local professional writing organizations, I had joined some art journaling online forums after my drawing and watercolor class and found everyone to be friendly. However, I missed my fabric, so Allyson Allen’s Fabric Journal class appealed to me. I found the class was the perfect marriage between art quilts and art journals for me. It was a book where I could draw out my upcoming quilt designs.

I had not had Vietnamese food in the desert since I left New Mexico. And the fact that it was a couple blocks from my hotel made it even better. Bill’s Pizza was another favorite. I later learned that it has been ranked as one of the best pizza places in the nation. I did not know that last year when I first ate there. I just thought, “This is some really good pizza!” But most of all, I enjoyed driving through the desert again, walking through the desert again and being with my art quilting family in class once more.Vietnamese SoupBill's Pizza

Quilt Fest Oasis Palm Springs 2014

What really led to the Macy’s show on State Street is my post graduate school bucket list. Working full-time and going to school can be stressful and the major events I missed provided even more challenges.

So, I made a list of what I missed out on textiles wise and I was determined to cross each item off the list. One of the items on it was to take an art quilting class with Tammie Bowser. While I was working on one goal, though, Mancuso Show Managements textiles events kept expanding. Anytime you hear “Mancuso Show Management,” think “art quilts” because this is what they are known for.

There are other quilting events, such as the International Quilt Festival, which is held every year in Houston, Texas, Chicago, Cincinnati and Long Beach, California, but they are known for more traditional quilts. Within the world of quilting, there is a bit of . . .distance, shall I say, between the traditional quilters and the art quilters. I am different in that I love all of it, both traditional quilts and art quilts. Also, my family did a lot of traditional designs. They did a few improvisational, original ones, but I still love everything.

Tammie Bowser’s class was one of the classes I’d been meaning to take for years. She was featured on the television show Simply Quilts and she came to the International Quilt Festival in Chicago many years ago. I took her day long class, but in essence, it was a 3 day long class that had been condensed. In other words, I knew I had to meet up with her later when my life had settled down somewhat.

I thought I was going through my bucket list. What I had done was revisited what had made me incredibly happy 10 years prior: Walking in the desert, driving in the desert listening to dance music, working with textiles, being around likeminded individuals who understood how gratifying it was to work within textiles. It may have been years, but repeating these small, simple pleasures had reawakened an exuberance within me that had gone dormant, but had finally resurfaced because it had a safe place to reemerge.

I loved the block party the city of Palm Springs had on Thursdays. There are a lot art vendors and musicians playing in the streets. One of my very favorite songs of all time, A Horse with No Name by America, was played in a local Mexican restaurant. I literally sat on a curb and just listened. When I came home, I listened to that song on repeat, just yearning to go back. I had not felt this type of creative wholeness and contentment since I’d left New Mexico to go to graduate school.

It is hard to explain why this experience resonated with me, but I will try. Aside from the fact that I had recurrent dreams of this place when I was studying for my LPN boards and well after I passed the RN exam, I met people that I personally feel are like my “textiles family” in class. They have been warmly supportive of me picking up my fabrics, reclaiming my craft and starting all over again post graduate school.

The art quilts were breathtaking up close. Each corner I turned, I saw an art quilt that was more impressive than the last one I saw. Many of the art quilts have been featured in museums across the nation as well as countless contests.

Although Quilt Fest Oasis Palm Springs is impressive to me, I was told that actually, it is an “average” quilt show for Mancuso Show Management in comparison to the Mid-Atlantic and Pacific International quilt shows. Still, Quilt Fest Oasis Palm Springs was and still is special to me because it was a bridging me into the creative life I’ve been trying to establish for so long.

Going once simply was not enough for me.Palm Springs Convention CenterPalm Springs Convention Center 2Palm Springs 1