quilting, sewing

sewing it: the denim sheet quilt

Quilting is a huge industry today. I think it’s like, B-B-Billions of dollars big. But when it was just a start-up, it was practiced pretty much out of necessity. Little bits of leftover fabrics sewn together to warm bodies.

The origin of quiltmaking is, somehow, insanely romantic to me.

The quilters of yesteryear probably wouldn't be very happy with me about the romanticism. I’m quite certain they wouldn’t describe it that way. But I’ve read lots about American quiltmaking history. It’s fascinating. For me, the whole idea for making the very first quilt could be pared down to this little rhyme:

Use it up, wear it out
make it do, or do without.

I’m not sure who originally said this. I googled it and came across pages about getting the last of your lipstick out of the tube, raiding the fridge instead of eating out, and fixing a broken strap on a mary jane with a heavy needle and fishing line. All 21st-century ways of living the old adage.

Good on you, 21st-century people.

I guess I’m just in love with the idea of getting creative. Instead of running out to buy something you want or need, you find a way to make what you want or need using what you already have.  

That said, I’m starting up a new quilt. Putting that old saying to use. One striped sheet and four pairs of denim jeans. To start.

I wanted to make one block design to repeat throughout the quilt in an interesting way. This is what I came up with.

Wallpaperborderblock1It’s inspired by a wallpaper border I spotted, sitting rolled up on a shelf at a dollar store years ago. I remember sketching what I remembered of the design later that day in the car. My memory of it was, well, sketchy.

Let’s just say it was a mistake not to spend the dollar.

Anyway, I’m calling it the “Wallpaper Border” block. Certainly not as inventive a name as “Monkey Wrench” or “Nonsuch” or “True Lover’s Knot” or “Arabic Lattice” or “Devil’s Puzzle,” but it’ll do for now. After all, I’m just at the beginning.

When I get the blocks completed, the inevitable question pops up: how to set them?

Setting1I like the simplicity of this setting.

Setting2I think this would turn into a bunch of letter H's. So, probably not.

Setting3Rows like this could be a bit of a mind boggler, but maybe in a good way.

Setting4How about pairing two different ideas? Hmmm…

Setting5On point?

Setting6Maybe a weaved, lattice-y look?

Setting7Oooh. Me likey.

I haven’t made a quilt in a while. I forgot how fun it is. It's also quite maddening.

Any setting you like best? Or perhaps you have a smarter suggestion for a block name (please)? I’m all ears.

Setting8Ah, yes. Quilting. Very romantic indeed.

quilting, ReSew

I went to Quilt Market and all I got was this lousy photo.

Many of you probably know that Quilt Market–the place where sellers and buyers of all things quilt converge–was in Salt Lake City this past weekend. For me, it was just up the street. I was very lucky to attend courtesy of Martingale & Company, my supernaturally-awesome publisher. (And my soon-to-be full-time employer. Again. Long story. Those guys just can't get rid of me.)

Perhaps it was the people I met–both beloved old friends and new quilting buddies. Perhaps it was the unexpected opportunities that fell into my lap. Perhaps it was the sheer excitement that comes with walking a new Market floor. Perhaps it was dancing with abandon at Market parties not one, but two nights in a row. Whatever the reason, my camera stayed in my purse, fully charged, for the entire four days I was at Market. Except for one photo:

A tile wall at the Blue Lemon, downtown SLC. Taken during
the packed-to-the-hilt Blogger's Quilt Market Meetup. Congratulations to
talented young woman for putting on an incredible, standing-room-only party.

Seriously, of all things, Jenny … the one photo you take at Quilt Market is of a tile wall!?! Yep. Sadly, with all the flurry of seeing and doing and meeting and laughing and twisting my right foot into my boot a teeny-tiny bit differently so it didn't hurt THAT bad and I could keep on walking, I neglected the wonders my camera could have captured. And there certainly were wonders to be captured each day.

Day One: I was introduced to some coworkers of mine who I'd never met in person before. They were warm, funny, interesting, and easy to talk to. Plus, I got to spend time with a woman who I have known, loved, and admired for well over a decade, and hadn't seen in a very long time. (Yes, YOU, Chris Wright from M&C.) I was too busy being in the moment. No photos. Crap!

Day Two: By a stroke of chance, I saw a friend I hadn't seen since Charlie was a baby–Annie Smith of Quilter's Stash. She invited me to talk about ReSew for her round of Quilt Market podcasts. What a treat! Annie is such a natural conversationalist; she makes it easy to forget you are being recorded, and that her many fans will be listening in on your casual chat. And sure enough, I forgot. Just like the camera. Why didn't I take our picture together, Annie? WHY? (You can listen to Annie's podcast with me here.) 

Day Three: I was in the M&C booth waiting for an appointment when who should walk by but Carma Wadley, reporter for the Deseret News. She let me know that the article she'd written about ReSew was going to be published on the front page of the "Family" section of the newspaper on Monday. And sure enough, it was! (Here's the online version.) I spent the afternoon thinking about how proud my dad was going to be when he saw it. The article begins, "Thrifty is nifty — especially the way Jenny Wilding Cardon does it." Hee-hee! Thank you, Carma. I think you're nifty, too. Even nifty enough for a photo. But alas, I forgot again. Dang it!

Day Four: I briefly met with Ellen March, Editor-in-Chief of Sew News and host of the PBS series Sew It All. Ellen invited me to be a guest on her show–we're taping this fall in Golden, Colorado! Why no photo? Well, that's simple–too nervous. Then, that night, I was invited to hit the town with THE. COOLEST. BLOGGERS. AROUND. We ate and laughed and talked and danced to '80s music. No time for photos. Too busy having a great time. But now, I would very much like to kick myself.

I've been to Market many times over the years, but never have I had so much fun. And as I think about it, I understand why I had such a wonderful experience. People–talented, kind, energetic, generous people–reached out to me. And I was surprised. Surprised enough to forget a photo opportunity or two. Or twenty.

Too in the moment. Too chatty. Too excited. Too nervous. Too surprised. Too busy with the fun of it all. And now that it's all said, done, packed up, and back home, I've come to a realization.

Yeah, sure, I'm kicking myself, But really, I wouldn't have wanted it to happen any other way.

crafts, quilting, sewing

share the warmth! (or, got blankets?)

If you're like me, you'll make a quilt for most any reason. For a gift, for a child, for a baby on the way. For a wedding, for an anniversary, for a birthday. For yourself. Or for no reason whatsoever. Sometimes, it's just about enjoying the process of creating something. Just because. And that's a wonderful thing.

Unfortunately, the wire shelves in my laundry room are beginning to bend under my stash of "just because" quilts. And there are more "just because" quilts on their way in from the sewing room. I've tended to keep my "just because" quilts for "just in case" reasons–a baby on the way, a birthday around the corner, a special something for an out-of-town guest to sleep under. But there's a new charitable-giving campaign that inspired me to part with some of my stash for a good cause.

Martingale & Company's share the warmth campaign encourages quilters, knitters, crocheters, and crafters around the world to join them in creating at least 3,500 quilts, blankets, afghans, and throws for donating to local charities.

(Make them globally, donate them locally. I like that!)

To celebrate their 35th anniversary of publishing "America's Best-Loved Quilt Books" (not to mention ReSew), Martingale is combining their charitible efforts with a great giveaway–35 random winners will receive a whopping 35 Martingale & Company books. You can learn all about getting involved with the year-long campaign here.

Sharethewarmthquilts I'm already planning "because" quilts for this campaign. But in the meantime, I'm donating these four baby quilts to The Road Home, a Salt Lake City homeless shelter in great need of blankets and other items (see their wish list here). Hey, locals! Anyone care to join me?

Quilted, knitted, or crocheted–whatever your favorite way is to get from beginning to end–I hope you'll consider making up a blanket or more to donate in your area. Or, if you're a quilter like me, you can head over to your quilt stash. You know those made-with-love blankees will be thrilled to find a home. Other than on the bending shelves in the laundry room.

quilting, sewing

Don’t Miss Modern Basics (and a marvelous giveaway!)

Today I’m veering off the ReSew blog tour path for a moment to share the buzz about another new book with you. It's by an incredibly talented cyber-friend of mine. It’s all about today’s modern style. It’s all about the basics of quiltmaking. It’s all about Modern Basics: Easy Quilts to Fit Your Budget, Space, and Style!

Modern Basics cover
People who’ve been quilting for awhile will instantly recognize the value in Modern Basics. It’s a wonderful collection of go-to quilt designs to stitch up in time for the wedding, the birthday, the holiday, the anniversary. The [insert celebration!]. Simple, sophisticated, fresh, beautiful. You can make them just because, too. For that alone, I say skip the giveaway below entirely and grab yourself a copy here right now!

But today, I’d like to focus on beginning quilters—or those of you would like to be. Amy Ellis is the author of Modern Basics, and she’s one of those rare quilt designers who’s hit on a brilliant combination: simple sewing = stunning quilts. Since I published The Little Box of Baby Quilts in 2007, I’ve had a lot of beginning quilters approach me about how to get started. The same questions come up: “What stuff do I need? How do I choose a pattern? How do I pick colors? Where should I sew? And how DO you sew, anyway?”

Beginners, Amy’s got your answers.

If you’ve been timid about trying quilting, Amy’s friendly, step-by-step approach will warm you up to setting up, and help you let go of any anxiety about giving quilting a try. She makes it so you can get right to the fun of it all. And that’s what creating quilts is all about!

Here are just a few of the “keep it simple” themes throughout Amy’s book, along with a look at the beautiful quilts she’s made.

Start with a design that contains just a few colors.

There are designs in Modern Basics that make color choices an absolute cinch because they use solid-colored fabrics. If you haven’t tried quilting because the choice of fabrics at the quilt shop is overwhelming (common beginner complaint!), try one of these first:

B1058_g02 “Tumbling Cubes.” Three colors. Super-easy sewing. Cool, minimalist vibe.

B1058_g13“Basic Puzzle.” This quilt is created row by row (instead of block by block)
to create a visually complex effect with solid fabrics.

Start with a design that contains simple shapes.

Once you’re ready to play with patterned fabrics, you can jump in and try one of these gorgeous quilts. Each is deceptively simple to make because of the easy-to-sew blocks they contain.

B1058_g08“Modern Maze.” This quilt is made with just five fabrics. Plus, Amy will
introduce you to a modern marvel of a technique in quiltmaking—strip sets!

B1058_g10“Twisted Bars.” This quilt is also made with strip sets. You add a teeny-tiny twist
by tacking triangles to opposite corners of each block. Here, Amy’s created
a wonderful way to ease into using triangles in your quilts. Take
that, triangles!

Start with a design that you love so you’ll finish it!

From first fabric cut to last binding stitch, quilts do take time. They aren’t something you can typically whip up in an hour or two. You have to commit. So you’ll want to make sure you choose a design that you really love. That way, you’ll see it through to the end.

Here are two of Amy’s quilts that I personally will be seeing through to the very end, very soon.

B1058_g12“Modern Mirrors.” Boy, does this quilt speak to me. The unusual color
combination is fantastic. It reminds me of Italian spumoni. Yum.

B1058_g14“Knotted Squares.” The visual intricacies of this quilt are deceiving;
Amy’s made this design very easy to attain. Beautiful and simple.
The best kind of quilting combination.

When you finally have Amy’s book in your hands, I have one last piece of advice for beginners:

Quilting is addictive. Proceed with caution. Adjust the rest of your life accordingly.

Okay beginners and beyond, it’s time for a special giveaway! I am thrilled that Amy has offered to give a free copy of Modern Basics to one lucky winner at the wildcards this weekend. Just leave a comment about this post for your chance to win. (Please make sure to sign in before you post so I have your email address, or include it along with your comment.) Just one entry per person, please. The giveaway will close at 10 p.m. (MST) on Sunday, February 27th. I'll announce a random winner on Monday. Good luck!


And the winner via RANDOM.ORG is:

Comment #75 from Kimberly, who writes:

"After reading you post I really am looking forward to
reading this book and trying her patterns! Please pick me!"

Congratulations, Kimberly! I know you'll just love Amy's new book.

One last thing… I’ve heard so many people say they want to quilt, they wish they could quilt, etc. With Amy’s Modern Basics, it’s time. Amy’s book will smash your intimidation at the first page, so have no fear—get ready, get set, and go for it!


You can learn more about Amy at her blog, Amy’s Creative Side. And check out another incredible creation of hers, The Sewing Summit, to be held in Salt Lake City this October. Can’t wait!

Amy’s blog tour also includes these fun, quilt-loving blogs.

February 21st: Piece N Quilt       
February 22nd: SewCalGal
February 23rd: Old Red Barn Co
February 24th: Terri's Notebook
February 25th: Crazy Mom Quilts
February 27th: BumbleBeans
February 28th: Fat Quarter Shop
March 1st: One Shabby Chick
March 2nd: Canton Village Quilt Works
March 3rd: Diary of a Quilter
March 4th: Fat Quarterly
March 5th: Amylouwho

Follow Amy's blog tour and enter each day's drawing for your chance to win a free copy of her beautiful book!

crumbs, quilting, thrifted!

Maw Jones and the Deep Scrap Bag

A few weeks ago, an assisted-living center down the street from our home hosted a big yard sale. I noticed it on the drive home from grocery shopping, which had been preceded by a hectic morning of breakfast making, kitchen cleaning, floor mopping, living-room straightening, toy-putting-awaying, and Diet-Coke drive-thruing. I still had more than a day's worth of tasks to complete, with only a half day to complete them. But I parked the car, grabbed the boys, and made the trek down the block for some treasure hunting.

The boys found a spread of toys on a blanket. I spotted a cardboard box full of folded fabrics. I bent down and started rummaging through them. At the bottom of the box, underneath some flats of solid-colored yardage, I found this:

A summer quilt (only two layers). Some machine stitching, some hand stitching. Lots of shirting fabrics. A few imperfections, but not many. It looked vintage. It looked pristine. It looked fantastic.

I looked for a price tag. Nothing. I looked around. I expected someone to lock eyes with me and shout, "Hey! I didn't mean to put that in there! Give it back!" But no one did. I tucked the quilt under my arm and continued browsing.

When the three of us were done with our search, we had treasured up a toy car for Jack, a Tickle Me Elmo for Charlie, and a big baggie full of vintage buttons for me. And the quilt.

I assumed things weren't going to go smoothly at the cash box. The quilt didn't have a price tag. It was probably put in that cardboard box by mistake. Wasn't it? Had to be, I thought as I walked toward a rickety card table to pay. The original owner will want to keep this, I thought. No one would give this up at a yard sale on purpose. Yes, back to the owner. That would be best.

I approached the table and lay our items down. "We'll take these… and there was this quilt, from a box over there," I said to the woman at the table. She picked up the folded quilt. A voice from behind her said, "Oh, I didn't know that was out there." I looked over the woman's shoulder to see a small, elderly woman in a wheelchair, parked on the grass. She smiled. "That's from Maw Jones."

I walked around the card table toward the elderly woman. "It's just wonderful," I told her. "I can't imagine you would want to sell it."

"Do you like quilts?" she asked me.

"Oh my gosh, yes. I've made quite a few myself."

"That's wonderful," she said. "I have two daughters who just don't like that kind of thing–sewing and such. If I gave them that old quilt, they wouldn't know what to do with it. So, yes. You just take it."

"What? Oh, I don't…"

"Yes, now, you just take it. I can't put a price on it and I don't have anyone I know that would appreciate it like you would."

I didn't know what to say. But I did know that I didn't want to say no.

"Well, can you tell me about it? Do you know when it was made?"

This wonderful little woman told me everything she knew about the quilt; I kept her going with question after question. She thought the quilt had been made in the 1920s (gasp!) by her grandmother, who the family called Maw Jones. She said the quilt was made in Pennsylvania, then it moved to Arizona, then here to Utah. At some point she inherited it from her grandmother, a smart, sassy woman with seven children and no husband.

"Wow. How'd she find the time to make quilts?" I asked her.

"It took her a long time," the woman said.

After some conversation about the neighborhood we share, I stumbled over a series of heartfelt but awkward thank-you's, and then I gave her a hug. I told her I would take good care of Maw Jones's quilt, and that I would write down the details of her story, and that I wouldn't let my boys touch it until they were older (she had just met my lively little ones, you know). I told her I would care for it like it had been made in my own family.

I brought Maw Jones's quilt home. I smoothed out the quilt and examined each block. I daydreamed about Maw Jones and her stitches, and her seven children. Then, out of curiousity, I emailed my friend Valerie (of Cookie's Creations fame), a licensed quilt appraiser, and asked her if she would take a look at it.

After close inspection, Valerie told me a few things about Maw Jones's quilt.

Mawjones2Some of these shirting fabrics are certainly from the 1920s;
others, as they might contain polyester, may be from as late as the 1950s.

Mawjones3For a quilt from this era, it really is in great condition.

Mawjones4There's only one spot where the quilt has been mended,
along a hand-stitched seam that had probably unraveled over time.


This type of doubled dimensional border is unusual, and really super cool.
(Well, the super-cool part is just me sayin'…)

Mawjones6We can't be sure who wrote this on the back in permanent marker; Maw Jones
or someone who simply wanted to remember that Maw Jones made it. 


Valerie was miffed by this strange little stamp on the back. She thought
it might be feedsack material but later decided that it wasn't,
because of the length and width of the fabric on the back.

Valerie described the quilt as possibly being a "deep scrap bag" quilt. The maker had saved fabrics for years and years. When she finally decided to put a quilt together, she had a stash that spanned decades.

Ah. Seven children. No husband. A deep scrap bag. Makes sense to me.

What an experience. I am still shocked that the quilt is mine. I'm wondering where the quilt should stay in our home. I want her safely on display. Her blue and cream hues bring calm to our at-times chaotic days. The pinstripes in her sashing and borders are sassy and smart, like I imagine Maw Jones was. But mostly, the story behind the quilt whispers to me. It says to be mindful. In time, all things get done. It reminds me of a quote I've always loved, from Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu:

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished."

I guess what I'm trying to say, I'm saying to myself. Stop rushing about, Jenny. In time, everything will get done.