Legit.

Dear friends,

I came home today to the best stack of mail, ever!

First, there was a sweet and thoughtful handwritten letter from my CupKate . . . the kind that makes a mother’s heart melt and that somebody will no doubt find after I die amongst my most treasured keepsakes.

Then, there was a typed form letter from the Missouri Department of Revenue. Magpie Quilts is legit! I have a tax ID number and am finally authorized to do bidness in the Show Me State.

<Picture me here doing a spot-on Steve Martin/Navin Johnson impression after the phone book arrives in The Jerk. “I”m somebody now! Things are going to start happening to me now!”>

As I have a habit of reading the mail over dinner, I very nearly did the happy dance over my plate of Mr. Mom’s homemade spaghetti. For a day of the week that normally produces little to cheer over, this Monday kicked boo-tay.

So here’s the deal: I finished a new quilt last week. And because it doesn’t make sense to mail my quilts one at a time to my cousin in Oklahoma, I’m going to post it for sale here. If none of my 47 faithful and 13 random readers are interested, I’ll ship it off to my bidness partner after I finish two or three more and the shipping cost is worth it. (Yes, I’m going to keep saying bidness through this entire post. I’m sorry. Chalk it up to Government-Stamp-of-Approval giddiness.)

By the way, I’m still thinking about opening an Etsy Shop for Magpie Quilts, as a friend suggested I might develop a Missouri following who will be disappointed that my creations are only available in Oklahoma. (I realize she was probably just being nice, but I’m willing to run with it.) Anyway, it’s going to be a while before I can make that happen for a variety of reasons mostly related to not enough time in the day.

So here it is folks . . . Listen hard and you can hear the drum roll reverberating in my head.

Sunday in the Park (Strawberry Jam, #2 in a series) — $125.

cherrystripe

A picnic basket. A shady spot under an oak tree. And a soft and colorful quilt on which to stretch out and spend a lazy afternoon with your sweetheart. These are the elements of a relaxing Sunday in the park, and Magpie Quilts’ latest design creates the perfect landing spot for your next outdoor excursion.

Strawberry Jam is the second in a series of Sunday in the Park quilts. It is made from 100% cotton fabric and features cheery and modern prints, with a touch of old-fashioned gingham. The front is an expanse of whole cloth featuring pink “berries,” punctuated by a column of multi-colored geometric and floral patterns.  The back features four large panels of pink gingham with window-frame sashing made from the primary print. The quilt is entirely hand-made — pieced, quilted and bound by a single artisan in her Missouri studio — and measures 58″ X 60″, making it suitable for covering your lap as well as your picnic spot.

All Magpie Quilts are safe for the washing machine if laundered in cold water with a gentle detergent and dried on a low-to-medium setting. The batting is an 80/20 cotton-polyester blend, which gives the quilt an exceptional drape and a light weight. The quilt was made in a smoke-free environment and has been pre-washed to give it the vintage appearance of well-loved linens.

If you’re interested in Strawberry Jam or have questions about Magpie Quilts, don’t hesitate to leave a comment here or email me at magpiequiltsbyjoan@gmail.com.

With gratitude {for a creative passion that is definitely lighting my fire},

Joan, who wishes to say one more time that Magpie Quilts is the brainchild of a woman who grew up in a heartland town she calls Mayberry, where catching fireflies on summer nights, sleeping under quilts hand-stitched by the local quilting bee, and sharing the bounty of a backyard vegetable patch never went out of vogue. Her quilt designs combine both vintage-inspired and contemporary fabrics in unfussy patterns that evoke a simpler time, a slower pace, and a love for the creature comforts of home.

Labor of love.

Dear friends,

I had the most wonderful holiday weekend — four days to be exact — nestled in the comfort of family, food, and love’s labor.

Kate was home from college with no agenda other than relaxing and catching up on family time.

Mr. Mom was home and, with the mountain burden finally lifted from his psyche, happy and present. (As opposed to restless and distracted — not that I’m criticizing him, but holy cow it feels good to be on the brighter side of that ordeal).

Only Parker was absent — busy earning money in Missouri’s productive hay fields — but still popping in long enough to share a meal or two with a family hungry for each other’s company.

Since no one had an agenda, since everyone was content to just be (with long stretches of “being” in front of the television to keep up with the US Open), I was happy to putter. And my puttering consisted of light cooking and cleaning with some heavy-duty sewing.

You could have guessed, couldn’t you, that I would tackle another project during the long weekend? I started Friday morning and finished Sunday night and couldn’t be happier with the results.

johnnaquiltcu

This one is going in the mail today to a friend. That’s all I’m going to say, lest I ruin the surprise.  But few words don’t mean few photos, so here’s another view:

johnnaquiltfront

And another:

johnnaquiltback

If ever I worried I might someday become a crazy cat lady, I can now release that fear for I have become the crazy quilt lady. I’ve definitely descended deep into the rabbit hole, but it’s become a labor of love, a vast creative outlet that offers an irresistible opportunity to stitch up a tangible and lasting expression of my love and admiration and send it to an unsuspecting recipient.

It’s like the quilt lottery, only you don’t have to buy a ticket and I’m the real winner (with huge recurring payoffs in joy).

With gratitude {for long weekends with my favorite people and pastimes},

Joan, who thinks a quilt with an inspired back is a lot like a purse with a pretty lining . . . delightfully unnecessary but so worth it

It’s all my brain’s fault!

Dear friends,

starfront

Last week I had the opportunity to take a survey based on the “whole brain” research of Ned Herrmann. The survey resulted in a detailed profile that explains my preferences for thinking and problem-solving based on the four quadrants of the brain and the types of activity central to each quadrant. At its most basic, the profile tells you if your preference is to be a “thinker” (the analytic quadrant), a “feeler” (the emotional quadrant), a “planner” (the organizing quadrant), or an “innovator” (the creative quadrant) — or, if your preferences make you “balanced” in two or more quadrants.

Before seeing the results, I would have told you I am a thinker and a planner.  I consider myself very analytical and very adept at administrative/organizational tasks (and Mr. Mom concurs, for what it’s worth).

Turns out, I was wrong. Based on the Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument (HBDI), I’m first and foremost an innovator. A creator. An entrepreneur.

It’s true that lots of people say I’m creative. “No I’m not!” is my usual response. (Because the part of my brain that is authoritative and overly-confident says I know myself better than others, I suppose.)

After seeing my profile plotted out over the four quadrants of the brain, I learned that I’m mostly creative, with lesser but balanced strengths in analyzing and planning. I’m weakest in feeling. (Yeah, I knew that about myself. “Joan’s so warm and empathetic” said no one ever.)

The purpose of this profile was to better understand how I bring my talents to bear for my employer and colleagues. What I couldn’t stop thinking about, though, was my recent foray into quilting.

“No wonder I have yet to follow a pattern!” I thought to myself. Since I started quilting in April, I’ve started seven quilts and finished six. The one unfinished quilt in my sewing cabinet is the one for which I have a pattern. Somehow, it’s just not interesting enough to keep me going. Since I promised Kate I’d finish it in time for tennis season, I’ve got to get over my  hurdle and get going — but I keep getting distracted by other projects, like the star placemat pictured above.

Saturday night I was perusing the internet and tripped across this photo:

quiltstar

Source: V and Co

I’ve been casting about for a quilt to make for a friend and this one seemed perfect for her tastes. And it looked so simple — except I’m too inexperienced to figure out on my own how to make the blocks that form the points of the star. After a little googling, I thought I had it. So I got up Sunday morning and used scraps to make a test block, which turned into an impromptu placemat because why waste a test square?

So — off I go in search of fun fabric for my friend’s star quilt.

And it’s all my brain’s fault!

With gratitude {for a brain that’s not what I thought it was but seems to work fine anyway},

Joan, who figures quilting by pattern is a lot like painting-by-number and she never did that either

Why? What do you do on a Friday night?

Dear friends,

It was a long week. A long week with a VERY GOOD middle, but a long one nonetheless.

So what’s a girl to do at the end of a long week besides cook a tasty supper and quilt a little?

Oh — you mean that’s not what you do?

(If that sounded snotty, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be. Truth is, I never cook on Fridays and I only recently started quilting, as you know. So it’s not what I do either, except last night I did.)

I have no photos of my supper so I guess I won’t talk much about it. I’ll just say this: I made the most sublime risotto with Shitaki mushrooms purchased at the Farmer’s Market. I wanted to eat the entire pot, but I pushed away from the kitchen island and walked to the dining room table. (Where I quilt.) I’m pretty certain I’ll eat the rest of the risotto for breakfast in the morning, but I know you won’t hold that against me.

After supper, I made a patchwork potholder. I’m kind of embarrassed typing this, because you know . . . Patchwork. Potholder. It sounds like a bad 8th grade Home Economics project. But it was surprisingly fun.

potfront

I trust you’ll overlook the fact that it’s a little lopsided and my curved binding is puckered. You sew, you learn.

But look — even the inside of the pocket is cute!

potinside

I get style bonus points, right?

The thing is — I needed I small gift/giveaway for an upcoming retreat. AND I needed something to hold several slips of paper for a drawing. I came up with the idea for a quilted heart potholder after I realized I could put the slips of paper in the pocket and get double-duty out of it as a giveaway.

I designed it myself and drew my own pattern, which is a pretentious way of saying it took me longer than it should have. (About three hours.) I’m hoping future potholders will go faster.

Future Potholders of America. I’m thinking I might have coined a phrase for a cottage industry.

With gratitude {for Friday night adventures involving Italian rice dishes and the kitchen linens that tote them},

Joan, an aspiring Miss Future Potholder of America

Two days. Two minds. Two quilts.

Dear friends,

wavequilt2

Guess what I did last weekend?

You got it! I quilted.

Two days, two quilts.

Before you tell me I’m obsessed, I already know that.  What I didn’t know is just how virulent my particular strain of quilt fever is. It’s like I can’t sew fast enough to quench my insatiable patchwork appetite.

I spent 12 straight hours on Saturday constructing a new applique quilt of my own design. (I can’t tell you about that one until after it arrives at the surprise recipient’s door.) By bedtime, I was bone tired and bleary eyed by what Mr. Mom called “Joan’s Sweat Shop” set up on my dining room table.  Sunday morning I woke and vowed to rest, but I stumbled across this photo while drinking my coffee and by 9:00 am, I was off to the races again.

It seemed like the perfect design to make for an upcoming gift occasion, but I’ve learned just enough in my 60-day patchwork odyssey to be leery of quilts that look simple. So I gathered up my scraps and — in a rare moment of enlightenment — decided to make a test quilt.

First I read the directions. When they didn’t make sense to me, all enlightenment disappeared and I thought “Oh, how hard can it be?”  I promptly made up my own rules because if it works in my head . . .

Well, you’ve heard the same song (first verse) from me before so you can surmise my made-up rules didn’t work. And while I was bemoaning this fact out loud, Mr. Mom took one look at my cutting board and said “Of course that won’t work.” Then he spontaneously proceeded to demonstrate for me exactly how to do it as if he were a master pattern-maker.

Sometimes you hate a smart man, sometimes you love him. On Sunday, his instructions not only made sense, they worked perfectly and I have to say I was smitten.

(Did I ever tell you that he got me through two graduate-level statistics courses where my tutor failed, despite the fact that he never took a single statistics course? The man has a powerful and intuitive understanding of math and geometry, which thank God, because somebody in our house needs those skills and it sure isn’t me and the kids.)

AND . . . when I finished stitching and I moaned about how caterwompass this quilt was, he demonstrated the precise measuring and cutting techniques to square it up. My apologies to Audrey and Tucker and Surprise Recipient #3 for their off-kilter quilts. It’s all Mr. Mom’s fault and I don’t know why he waited until now to share his knowledge.

Anyhow — here’s how my “test quilt” turned out in full:

wavesquilt

I absolutely love the “waves” of pattern and I can’t wait to select the fabric for my gift quilt. AFTER next weekend.

For now, I’m basking in the glow of one exceptionally productive weekend, an unusually talented partner, and the stamina to sew like Norma Rae.

With gratitude {for team efforts},

Joan, who’s contemplating founding a chapter of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union in her dining room because maybe she needs a couple of weeks of lazing around eating buttered crackers on the sofa

The Patchwork Brigadoon.

Dear friends,

photo

I had the most enchanting day on Friday. I went on a rambling odyssey through Missouri and found myself startled, and captivated, and charmed. Oh, if only all my Friday afternoons could be as much fun as yesterday.

I left work just before noon in search of a distant merchant. You might guess I was looking for a sewing machine, and boy did I find one. Interestingly, the store was two hours away, deep into rural farm country. Driving miles outside our state’s capitol on a postcard-worthy stretch of land dotted with ponds, proud red barns, and rolling fields of freshly cut hay bordered by white rail fences, I stumbled upon my patchwork Brigadoon. There were a dozen cars in the gravel parking lot (in the Middle of Nowhere, mind you) and a handful of bonneted young women in ankle-length, calico dresses inside the metal building buzzing over customers just like me who had presumably driven miles to this magic destination, known by some as the Quilting Capitol of America.

Sarah, an exceedingly polite and cheerful young woman who looked no more than 18, sat me down to test drive several models. I fell in love immediately with the quiet hum of Swiss precision, also known as the Bernina 350 Special Edition. It had everything I wanted and stitched like a dream, but since I realize my average reader isn’t as excited by the technicalities of sewing machine features as I have come to be, I’ll skip that part.

Suffice to say, less than an hour later I was paying my bill and realizing there would be many future drives to this idyllic spot where I hoped the crafty Mennonites would teach me every quilting trick in the book.

As I was writing my check, I asked, “By the way, is there a good fabric shop in the capitol city?” Sweet Sarah looked stricken and said “Well, there’s a JoAnn’s.” I frowned and shook my head, but before I could say a word, another calico-clad girl said “If you want quality fabric, you’ve got to go to Stover!”

Turns out, Stover was several miles deeper into farm country, another enchanting destination where another metal warehouse held the contents of my dreams. The tin store in the farming community of 900 held 9000 bolts of fabric, ten bolts for every soul that calls Stover home. I spent another two hours there, wandering the stacks in search of cotton treasure and finding plenty.

The proprietor, who had an uncanny resemblance to Emmylou Harris, cut my fabric and patiently answered my questions and said “Don’t forget to visit the quilt show.”

“Quilt show?” I exclaimed? Could this day get any better?!

“Yes. It’s just down the road. And it’s free.”

So down the road I went to yet another metal building surrounded by hay fields and populated with cheerful and welcoming women, including one named Priscilla who made sure I bought raffle tickets (for the “opportunity quilt”), met the leaders of the local Quilting Guild, and cast a vote for my favorite entry.

My vote went to the maker of this beautiful gem.

rose

Her name is Rose. She hand-pieced this quilt. When she was 90. For her daughter.

I very nearly wept right there in front of Priscilla, who really wanted to hear more about my first quilt and make sure I met the other show organizer who just happened to be from my town.

I finally pulled myself away sometime after 6:00 pm, which meant it was 8:30 pm before I pulled into my driveway, weary but happy and inspired.

When I walked in . . . well, that’s when happy and inspired turned into Mondo-Beyondo. There was a surprise so lovely awaiting me it requires another post.

(Sorry to leave you hanging, but I’ve got an unopened sewing machine calling my name!)

With gratitude {for maybe the best Friday ever},

Joan, who told Parker she was as excited about her new sewing machine as he would be with a brand new pickup truck . . . to which he responded, “No way, because you’re not jumping up and down and crying!” . . . to which she responded “I already did, but I was in Patchwork Brigadoon and you couldn’t see me”