Archive for the ‘Teaching kids to sew’ Category

Taping for Quilting Arts: Epic Fun and Artful Collapse

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Last week I  taped 3 sessions with Pokey Bolton for Quilting Arts. I’ve done this before. Pokey is delightful. The makeup artist is a miracle worker. But the green room….. The greenroom is full of people who are your favorite quilters. And sometimes you even know them. If they’re not your friends before, they will be when you’ve left.

So seeing Penny McMorris, the Electric Quilt Guru, and Jeannine Delpin, the who handles the Bernina teacher’s programs among her million tasks, were both a delight. Then I got a special gift.

Luana Ruben was there. I met Luanna maybe 20 years ago in class. She was a delight then. By now she has the smartest and best online quilting store ever, Equilter. If you’ve never shopped there, it is the easiest way to put together fabric online. And the most wonderful selection I know of. I don’t often quilt with quilting fabric unless it’s a love quilt. But when I do, I get online with the person it’s for, use her brilliant swatch board so we can see how things look together, and know I’m making something someone will love.

So even better still, her daughter Sophie was there. I love quilting kids. Sophie is 10 and has been neck deep into quilting since she came home with Luana. They were both taping for quilting arts. 

It is the best thing in the world to see people become who they’re meant to be. Luana has developed a store community that feeds us all as quilters. But it might be better still to see someone like Sophie with all that passion for fabric in a kid size body. She and I stitched free motion horses for fun after wards. Boy, was she good!

My one sorrow? My camera died. Everyone said they’d send me pictures.Perhaps, like me, they came home and laid down for a week.

Luana wrote about the trip in her generous blog. Visit Equilter and be amazed!

I’ll share more about this in some other posts. My segments were on corded binding, the right darning foot, and couching feet for all kinds of yarns and trims.

 I’m currently on  this years Quilting Arts TV series in episode 1002 and 1004. You can find more information about that on on Quilting Arts TV.


Mary Annis: Moms, Other Moms and Language Confusion

Monday, May 14th, 2012


Feathered Persian



I had an odd childhood. Most of it was after my thirties, so I’m still quite young, actually. Margaret Eddy, my birth mother was a school teacher who really didn’t know what you did with children if you didn’t have a desk between them and you. We figured that out before she and I came to major blows.  I was an only child so she had no earlier practice. So my childhood with my mother consisted of lessons. Piano lessons. Poetry readings. Diagramming sentences. Homework. Odd histories. Writing. Art history. Musicals. Singing music from musicals. And a tendency to try to make money out of the very odd crafts I insisted on doing. She managed practicalities fairly well. I was fed and washed as cleanly as any child with a passion for mud pies can be.

But my other mother taught me the important things.

No, I wasn’t adopted. But I had a neighbor lady who took me in. 


Mary Annis moved next store when I was eight. She lived in Mrs. Zilm’s crazy huge old house with four children, one who was my age. And she just folded me in.


Mary was the original lunatic fringe.It was like visiting OZ. In Mary’s house, people made messes. Out of art. They were late. They didn’t answer phones. Oddly enough they also didn’t care about food, because no one really cooked. I spent days tucked in making doll clothes, embroidering pillow cases, melting crayons, and making my real mother insane. It was perfect. Mary even had a cat who attacked my mother through the ferns when Margaret came to get me. It was wonderful!

An odd thing happened. As an adult, I know how adults just take their children’s friends wherever they’re going. But I had a taste for crafts and antiques her children didn’t share. We bonded over a million craft projects and piles of fabric. Somewhere she became more than my friend’s mom, and more than a neighbor. Words fail me.  Mother comes close. Friend comes closer, but an adult’s friendship with a child is a different friendship. If I wanted mothering, God knows she was a much better at it than my mother.  She was also my champion. She fought my mother for crucial things for me: art lessons, my first cat, space to create. Her fights with Margaret always made me want to head under the couch. She took them on clear eyed and gladly, and Margaret never had a chance. She made my childhood sane.

Why did she do that? I can only guess. She knew it was needful. And a woman who knows that the phone doesn’t need to be answered, also knows what really does.

Mary Shirley Annis

Mary was my friend past my childhood, all my life. I dedicated each of my books to her, for, in truth, they couldn’t have happened without her.  My art wouldn’t have happened without her. Was she my friend? My mother? Words fail us often and they fail us here. I only know she lit my corner of the world and coaxed me out.

Mary Annis passed away on May 8th. For her, I’m sure it’s a graduation, a celebration, a feast of joy to be home. We’ll celebrate her life at a memorial this coming Saturday. I intend to celebrate her life every day, as I live surrounded by her love, working on the art she only understood, with odd children running in and out my door.

You’ll find Mary Annis’s tribute by her daughter Barbara Gail Simons here. There are notes from Betsy and Chuck, her other surviving children, as well.

You’ll find a loving blog of Mary’s life in Indianapolis written by her daughter Betsy Fladung here.

I wrote another blog about Mary called The Mentor Waltz. I hope you find other mothers everywhere, because, God knows, we need them.

Bird Speaks from the Dog House: Studio Miracles

Sunday, April 22nd, 2012

As always, it’s my job to care for the social well being of all people who come to the studio. I think they lack proper dogs who kiss them enough. I always help with that.

But I also get to see the miracles that happen when you have a creative space. A creative space doesn’t just make objects. It makes people creative. And bless them, we know they need help.

Liams machine

Several years ago, a lady left a sewing machine for my mom. It was an  awfully old Pfaff, before the walking foot mechanism. She said at the time, she’d find it a home. It’s home seemed to be under the counter.




Then her neighbor Liam, who is 11 told her he wanted a sewing machine. Liam is a great neighbor. He comes over, tells great stories, rubs dog tummies, watches Mom sew and has helped make a great new garden bed for Mom. He even helps her find camera and glasses.

There’s a readiness to learning to sew, just like there is for reading. When a kid wants to, that’s the time. Thank God we had that machine ready and waiting. It’s perfect. It’s all metal, tough, strong and solid. And Liam loves to oil and maintain it. To make him feel better I stuck my nose right up his back while he was stitching. You know, I think he needs that kind of support. But it was good his foot was off the pedal.

But that’s what a good studio does. There’s a lady who needed a place to give her machine to. There’s a little boy sewing his heart out. There’s Mom with great and lovely people around her. A studio is a place to create things. But it also creates happy people.

Can you come to our studio? Well, of course. Call Mom first so she knows or you may find her upside down in a dye sink. If you wish to see a clean studio you can make an appointment for 3 years from now. If you to come play, well just come over.

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