Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Blog Tour--Star Struck Quilts

--Sept. 1--Bidding is now closed on this post. You can comment if you want but you won't be entered in the drawing. Winners announced soon.--

Note--my "official" blog tour day is the 26th but I'm flying out early on the 26th (to the same area Barbara Cline is from!) so this will be late on the 25th instead.

The last time I was in Virginia, my sister took me to this to-die-for quilt shop not far from her place in Dayton. I started talking with the capable lady behind the counter and found out she is Barbara Cline, one of a flock of creative sisters whom I admire for their astonishing creativity and envy for their practice of getting together once a year for a week of sewing. Imagine, a whole week of sewing with your mom, sisters, and nieces.

As I chatted with Barbara I found out that she was in the process of having a book published. She handed me a flyer. “Star Struck Quilts,” it said, with a photo of a star quilt in--appropriately--a striking black and red.

And now Barbara and her book are on a blog tour, and this is stop number four. I’ll list the others at the end so you can browse there and learn a bit more and register for the giveaways.

Yes, giveaways. If you leave a comment on this post, I’ll put your name in a hat and you might be a winner. 1st place winners will receive Star Struck Quilts. 2nd place winners will receive a Pen-style Chaco liner, Flower head pins, and Best Press spray). At the end of the blog tour someone will win RJR fabric and $25.00 gift certificate from Patchwork Plus.

As I scrolled through a copy of Star Struck Quilts online, I kept exclaiming, “Oh my stars!” until I suddenly realized what I was saying and felt a bit silly. But this is a book for exclamations. The quilts are stunning, and the designs get more complex as the book goes along.

Here are a few questions I asked Barbara—

Who is the book written for? (beginners/medium skilled/advanced? Or a combination?)

It starts out on the beginner level teaching one how to make a simple star. Each star gets a little harder with new techniques being taught. Also as you continue through the book the piecing gets smaller
and smaller with each star. With each pattern you learn techniques, steps and tips as you continue throughout the book.

How did you learn to trust your eye for color and design?

When picking fabric for a quilt I first pick a print with the number of colors I may need in that particular quilt. I call this my main fabric. This fabric is then my guide to pick the rest of the fabrics. I will pick different values and tones of colors that are in this main fabric and needed for the particular quilt I am working on. There are times when I will toss the main fabric and not even use it in the quilt. Since I work at a fabric store often I will get my selection approved by another employee and get their input.

Why stars, as opposed to log cabins, applique, etc?

Lone stars have intrigued me since I started piecing quilts. When I learned I could create designs inside the lone star my fascination grew and grew. That is how the book Star Struck Quilts began to take shape.

Do you feel that quilt-making has changed a lot since you first got involved? If so, in what ways? What changes do you expect in the future?

Yes, it has changed quite a bit. Machine quilting has really taken off and art quilts have really gone places. As far as the future I really don't know but I feel traditional quilts will always hold a special place in peoples hearts.

Here's the official book blurb--

Mix ‘n match blocks and center stars for up to 27 different quilts

This book includes complete instructions for 9 wall hangings, which can then be transformed into 27 bed-sized quilts. Barbara shares many valuable life lessons and shows you how to achieve the fine workmanship found in the quilts made in her Mennonite community.

Barbara Cline as been sewing since the fifth grade. She comes from a long line of quilters with a strong heritage based on Mennonite traditions. She resides in the Shenandoah Valley community of Bridgewater, Virginia.

Julia Graber August 23

Polly the Patchworker August 24

Quilters Corner August 25

Dorcas Smucker August 26

Canton Village Quilt Works August 27

Deb Girotti August 28

Spun Sugar Quilts August 29

Quilternity August 30

Burgundy Buttons August 31

Little Lady Patchwork Sept 1

Tazzie Quilts Sept 2

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Jenny got a kitten from her friends Hannah and Abigail, who had named it Serena because they thought it looked like Kevin and Jean's little daughter. But Jenny renamed it Cleopatra because "she was kind of queenly."

Cleo lives an exciting life, evading Hansie [who we thought was too old to chase cats, but she has done miracles and made the lame to walk again and the halt and maimed to leap and bark] and also playing The Cat in the Hat Comes Back and dressing up and giving me my Grandma Fix for the day.
Quote of the Day:
"Didn't you know this is why God created the X chromosome?"
--Matt, the other Saturday, after I chirped "Does anyone want to hit a few garage sales in Harrisburg with me?" and was met with blank stares from the three guys sitting around the kitchen.

Friday, August 20, 2010

At the Fair

One of the perks of being at the authors' table at the county fair--besides chatting with other authors and meeting real-live readers--is re-connecting with Katie Stocks, a watercolor artist who always has her display not far from the authors.

Yesterday Katie wanted an update on each of my children, which always earns points with me as any mom can understand. I was telling her that Steven just survived drivers' ed, and she thoroughly sympathized.

And then she told me a story of when her son was at that stage. One day he was driving and Katie was in the passenger seat. They came up to a stop sign and Katie told him to stop, but he kept slowly rolling along even as she kept telling him to STOP and even as she saw the police car on the other side of the intersection and her son didn't.

They turned the corner and so did the policeman, and soon lights flashed behind them. The policeman told her son, "I saw you rolling through that stop sign, and I saw your mom talking to you, and I could tell you weren't listening to her. From now on, LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER."

Her son didn't get a ticket, but from then on he listened to his mother.

I told Katie that I and probably lots of other moms would pay to have that happen to us.

Quote of the Day:
"Oh! This is so amazing! I've always wanted to meet a real arthur!"
--a young woman at the authors' table

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Books n Berries

Emily and I plan to be at the fair today [Thursday] from 2-10pm. Authors' table. Lane County Fair. Come say hi.


Today four of the children and I went wild-blackberry picking along a harvested Mennonite field a few miles north of here. 3 1/2 gallon buckets in less than an hour. I made and froze about ten unbaked blackberry pies and baked two more for supper and put a bunch of berries in the fridge for cobblers and such.

Love love love wild Oregon late-summer blackberries.

Next week I plan to do a review of Barbara Cline's new book about star quilts. It is amazing. And there will be a giveaway, yes there will, but the info is on the other computer, so stay tuned.


Quote of the Day:
[this is for all the people who think my kids should be falling over with admiration because their mom is an author]
Ben: Are you and Emily going to the fair tomorrow?
Me: Yeah, 2 to 10.
Ben: So your book, Downstairs the Queen is Knitting, is that one out yet?
Me: Um, yeah, it 's been out for almost a year.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer's End Approaches

When the kids were little, their favorite babysitter was Aunt Bonnie. At Bonnie's there were wonderful cousins to play with, and wonderful dolls, and a play structure in the back yard, and yummy snacks, and so much more.

Invariably, when I returned to pick them up, Emily would take one look at me and burst into tears. "But Mom, we haven't started playing yet!"

I could never figure this out. It could be half an hour or four hours, and she would always be in tears and would always insist that they were just ready to start playing but hadn't started yet. And she would beg to stay longer, and I would have to say no.

That's how I feel this summer.

Here I have about six precious weeks with all of my kids at home, and I keep thinking, one of these days I'll have time to really enjoy them. But until then it's all rush rush rush, boys off to the warehouse, huge meals to cook, birthdays to celebrate, Matt hunting in the fridge for leftovers before he leaves for work, writing deadlines, water the flowers before they die, feed and water the hens before they do the same, endless dishes and pitchers of iced tea, company coming and going, out to the coast for our anniversary, mountains of laundry, getting ready for a garage sale, having the garage sale and cleaning up afterwards, running Steven's supper down to the warehouse, speaking engagements in town, three kids teaching VBS and one attending, freezing blueberries, rush rush rush and hurry hurry and work like crazy.

But surely one of these times I can just ENJOY my kids!

This evening, suddenly, it was just Paul and me and Jenny here, and Paul's mom for a while. I was seized with a sadness and near-panic. Are we almost back to this, nearly everyone gone, the quietness, the emptiness, the ticking off each one in my head--ok, he's there, she's over there, the younger boys are at Dan's--with a quick prayer for each and the inevitable sense of distance and longing?

And I thought, so soon, they're going to be GONE and I HAVEN'T STARTED PLAYING YET!!


Postscript: this evening I asked Emily about these memories of her, and she said, "Well, we always had to decide which dolls we would play with, and give them all names, and decide which clothes they would wear, and who of us would be the mom and the dad, and then when we finally had all that decided and were about ready to start playing, then you would come back!"

Quote of the Day:
"Wow, Mom, maybe you should get excommunicated!"
--Emily, after she asked Paul what it means to get excommunicated and he said, among other things, that you could still attend church and all, but you wouldn't have any responsibilities.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Today's Column

At Ellen Gerig's suggestion, (thanks, Ellen!) I took the post about different types of campers and expanded it into a column. Click here.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Back in his welding days, my brother Fred used to say there were two categories of welders—the type who would rather make a hundred identical hog troughs, one after the other; and the type who would rather make a hog trough, then a trailer, then a grain auger, figuring out a new design each time.

I think seamstresses are the same way, and I fall into the latter category, which maybe explains why I have so many drawers full of patterns and keep buying more at garage sales. I love to figure out a pattern and make it work.

Amy is getting ready to go to SMBI in September, so as per their requirements she needs dresses instead of skirts and tops. We cut a lovely deal where I sew and she cooks and cleans. She found a pattern that lots of Mennonite girls use, or so she was told, and bought a stash of fabric.

I spent hours on the first dress, measuring and fitting and altering until it was just right, and then Amy wanted all her dresses to be made exactly like that, except for the shiny green formal dress. So now I’ve made four dresses with that exact pattern and have cut out three more.

I remember a staff wife at Maranatha Bible School back in the 80’s lamenting all the frou-frou on the girls’ dresses—ruffles, lace, long ties in the back. Well, either those days are long gone or Amy isn’t into fluff, or maybe both. All these dresses are as plain as can be—no collar, ruffles, piping, gathers, lace, or tucks anywhere.

So I am turning out one identical hog trough after another, so to speak, and to my surprise I’m enjoying it. It’s nice to know which step I want to do next without having to read the pattern or figure it out by trial and error, it’s nice to not have to fit it on and alter it after each step, and it’s nice to feel efficient.

So maybe I need to change my ways just a bit with sewing in the future, and find one pattern that works and stick with it and even make two or three dresses/bags/skirts at one time.

Meanwhile, from my own memories of Bible school and from what Emily says about SMBI, the real test of Amy's dresses' success will be: will other girls want to borrow them??

Quote of the Day:
"I wanna be a coo maedly."
--Jenny, who wants to be a cowgirl and knows just enough Pa. Dutch to be dangerous

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Coming to Virginia

I plan to accompany Emily to Virginia at the end of this month when she starts school at Bridgewater College.

I'll also have two book signings, and if you're in the area I'd love to have you stop by and say hello.

On Saturday, August 28th, I'll be at Books of Merit at the Dayton Farmers Market from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

On Monday, August 30th, I'll be at VRMC which I think is a retirement community, at 10:30 a.m. First I have a 20-minute talk and then I sign books. It's in the Strite Auditorium on the second floor of the Crestwood building. There's a map at

ps--oops, that's VMRC and, not VRMC. Thanks, Sharon.