Today I’m writing in honor of my friend Julie Forward DeMay and her memoir, Cell War Notebooks – today is a blog-athon organized by Indies Forward and I asked to join as well. Julie’s book was made from seven months of her blog posts, telling the story of her journey with cervical cancer. It’s beautiful, honest, funny, full of love and so, so hard to read at times – I just want the ending to be different, so badly. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I hope that you read it, too. And as Indies Forward says…
What if you couldn’t promote your book? Not everyone gets that chance. Our indie-ninja-in-spirit Julie Forward DeMay dreamed of being a published author, and in 2011 her first book was released — two years after Julie (a daughter, sister, wife, and mother) lost her battle with cancer.
In a couple weeks, it will be sixteen years since I landed here in Portland. The first morning I was here, I went for a walk and got a cup of coffee in the rain. The very first store I walked into was a little record store called Q is for Choir. I set my coffee down and started flipping through records, and it was sometime in that magical hour that I realized that I was home, and that if I loved Portland in February when it was wet and dark and cold, it was the place for me.
I met Julie through a bunch of mutual friends sometime a couple years after that. I loved her photography and we sold our stuff at a few of the same art shows and craft fairs. I remember buying a couple of her prints and loving them. This top one is called “Trapeze” and I don’t think the other, of train tracks, had a name. We were never super close friends, but I always liked her so much, was always so happy to see her at a party or an art show or her shop. She was a bright light and a huge talent, one of the people who made Portland special.
Julie and her husband Scott bought Q is for Choir a few years later, and they made it such a cool place… they carried zines (they sold my husband Andrew‘s eBay PowerSeller guide), art shows, books (I got my Ex Libris Anonymous spiral-bound family cookbook there) and lots and lots of records. Julie (whose adorable daughter Luka is a few years older than Pearl) had created such a great kids’ section, I always found some treasures there with her guidance. Here are a couple of my favorites she helped me pick out.
I was out for a walk with baby Pearl one afternoon early in 2009 and we saw Julie on Clinton St., walking to work. We chatted for a few minutes and I asked how she was doing. She said that her cervical cancer had come back after nearly a year of remission, but she was doing everything she could to take care of herself and beat it again. I told her that my mom is a cancer survivor, four times over, and that love and support from her friends had meant so much, and I’d be honored to help in any way I could. She told me that she’d started writing a blog to share updates and her story for everyone, and I started reading it, and like so many of her friends, left her little porch presents and sending cards, cheering her on, visiting her at the shop, hoping so much that her bravery and strength would win.
The last time I saw Julie was at her opening for a show of her photographs that summer. I got to tell her how much I loved them – they were all lights and colors and beautiful-ness. Andrew and I bought this one. I sure wish I could get a good photo of it for you, today. It’s just so luminous and serene and warm and energetic all at once. I hope you can see a bit of that even in these off-kilter snapshots, with the reflections and angles. Every time I see it now in my house, it makes me happy. I’m thankful to her for capturing that image and sharing it with the rest of us.
Julie was a photographer, writer, mother, wife, friend and record store owner. Her amazing blog has become a book, self-published by her family, with all proceeds going to her beloved Luka (who is now nine). You can buy it here and find out much more about it here, and you can see all of the Indie Forward posts linked here.
That spring of 2009, my third book, Button It Up, came out, and I brought a copy of it over for Julie and Luka. Julie was so excited for me, and her kind words meant a lot. She asked what it was like to have your own book in your hands. I’m shy, even around friends, and probably to a fault never want it to seem like I’m bragging – I feel so lucky and thankful for the chance to write, but I downplayed it a little bit, not wanting to seem cocky. But now, holding Julie’s book in my hands, I wish I could somehow go back to that conversation with her and be more brave, and say instead – it’s awesome. The chance to have your very own book out in the world is wonderful. And I am so proud of Julie and her beautiful book, and very thankful to her family for bringing it to life on the page. I wish she were here to tell you about it herself. But I am honored to be one of the ones talking about her, and her book, today.
PS: Q is for Choir has now become Clinton St. Record and Stereo, and along with records, they specialize in stellar vintage record players and audio equipment. Aaron recently fixed my static-y early-70s Pioneer receiver and it has never sounded better. I love the shop and I’m so happy to be able to walk over, after all these years.
I’ve spent the last week cleaning and organizing my craft room and wow, it has been a ton of work! Last year was so busy and it felt like every minute of my childcare time was spoken for twice over. So I sewed until the last minute and rushed to pick my kids up from school instead of having time to put things away, and my stuff got cluttered, crowded, and disorganized. I couldn’t see a lot of my fabric or find a lot of my supplies without moving things around… and we all know it’s not fun when you have an idea in your head and you JUST WANT THE RIGHT FABRIC NOW.
So, three or four long days later, I am so much happier and inspired working in there, and I’ve gotten to sew some new things for the house! My favorite project so far is my beautiful new ironing board cover – made from a Vera vintage sheet using this tutorial from Sew Much Good. My old plain-blue cover looked awful and crummy (I couldn’t bring myself to take a before photo, ugh) and this one is so pretty and simple and feels so right in my sewing room. It makes me happy every time I look over at it. Yay!
This is my 2013 craft sketchbook/journal from Ex Libris Anonymous. I LOVE it. I staple fabric swatches or pin paper patterns right to the pages and record all my notes and measurements and extras in there. It’s really nice for projects like this – when I used a great tutorial but made some of my own tweaks that I want to remember.
Here’s what I did differently: I cut my Vera sheet using my ironing board as a pattern the same way that Sew Much Good recommends, but then backed it with fusible batting for padding and sturdiness. The sheet was very filmy and needed some structure. That worked perfectly. Then, instead of 1/4″, I used 3/8″ flat elastic (which is what I had on hand) and instead of cutting and folding my own bias tape, I used hem facing (the flat 2″ wide bias tape you can buy at the fabric store). I needed about a package and a half. This was super easy to thread through, and a very sturdy casing.
The only other thing I did differently was to stitch the bias channel on about 1/3 of the way around, then backstitch and take it off the machine entirely (instead of pulling the elastic while it was still on the sewing machine). I pulled the elastic so it gathered nicely, then double-pinned it in place there. I sewed to the 2/3 point, repeated the same gathering method and double-pinned, and finished with a third round at the end point. Then I eased the cover over the ironing board, took out all the pins, adjusted the elastic gathering so it was nice and even all the way around, and tied a good knot to secure it. Done!
This was a super fun, fast project and I’m especially happy I could make it all with things I already had (the vintage sheet, fusible batting, hem facing, and elastic). I love the sheet, but it cost $3 at a thrift store and was a full size, measuring something like 80″ by 90″ – so when the cover inevitably gets spilled on or fused to, I can let it go without grieving that I ruined something precious or expensive. Plus, I still have a ton left, even after finishing this large-scale project and lining the reversible rainbow dress I made for Pearl for Halloween. I’m glad that these blue flowers can live on in some other sewing projects.
I hope your 2013 crafts have been fun so far! This has been a good stretch of house projects for me and I’m so grateful to have the time to work on them. I just finished sewing a couple of super simple tablecloths and cloth napkins, worked my way through most of my mending pile (FINALLY), and I’m working on some new Pendleton curtains, too.
I have a babysitter for a few hours today, and it’s been fun to read lots of the Local Quilt Shop Day blog tour posts, so I figured I’d jump in with my own! What the heck, I hardly ever had time to post over here last year so it’s nice to write about things I like and love when I do get the chance.
Local Quilt Shop Day is January 24 and there are some prizes and other fun things going on if you visit your favorite independent fabric shop. Thursday is a school day for my kids (you may notice a pattern here?) so hopefully I will be over at my dear Cool Cottons finding some new favorites, and chatting with Marie and Linda! Cool Cottons is a beautifully curated shop that’s nearly all patterned quilting cottons, arranged by color in the most inviting and fun way, with some marvelous Japanese fabrics, shot cottons, solids, and other treasures mixed in. Post update! Michelle reminded me in her super comment just now that Cool Cottons offers an amazing punch card, and as she put it, “The day mine filled up for the first time felt like Christmas!” Here is my current one, I’m getting closer…
In the meantime, I thought I would post some of my favorite fabrics I’ve found there over the years. This stack of marvelous Lotta Jansdotter prints has turned into lots of things I like, to say the least.
I got nearly all these solids (a few from home, but most on the lovely solids stairwell at Cool Cottons) for my Denyse Schmidt class #2 (2011).
And these prints and solids for my Denyse Schmidt class #3 (2012). Marie is a color magician and greens are her personal favorite, so you can imagine how fun it is to trail her around the shop when you’re looking for good things in that spectrum.
Here are some of my blocks I made in class with those greens.
Marie also offered to host some of our Quilts for Quake Survivors bees in 2011 and those were wonderful, amazing craft nights! She even gave us a whole bunch of their blocks of the month to turn into the sweetest charity quilts. So awesome.
And I haven’t had time to post about this here yet, but look for it soon… neatly folding my vast amounts of zillions of fabrics around comic book backing cardboards has changed my life. I did a little demo at our November PMQG meeting, based on this great tutorial from Cut To Pieces (with a few of my own variations). Anyway, Excalibur Comics and their stacks of 100 acid-free cardboards are right across the street from Cool Cottons so, car traffic on Hawthorne permitting, this is the most awesome, convenient happy pairing pretty much ever in the world. Buy beautiful fabric on one side of the street, change your life with efficient, life-altering folding techniques on the other. (Then you can get coffee, pizza, or look at vintage. Yeah, Portland is pretty great.)
Of course there are many, many wonderful fabric stores in Portland – I also love and SUPER recommend Bolt*, Sew Po*, Sew Mama Sew*, the Woolen Mill Store*, Mill End, and Fabric Depot. But Cool Cottons is definitely my local (walking distance – I still can’t believe I can walk to a fabric store, even after five years!) quilting cottons shop, so that will be my Thursday LQSD destination for sure!
If you go:
2417 SE Hawthorne Blvd
Portland, Oregon 97214
Local Quilt Shop Day – Thursday, January 24, 2013
The Modern Quilt Guild recently organized a special drive to make quilts for the Austin’s Children’s Shelter. They sent many of the MQGs packages of Quiltcon blocks to work with and asked each of us to make one twin-sized quilt to donate. The 2012 and 2013 PMQG boards teamed up to work on this project collaboratively, which was fantastic! Our blocks we got for the front are wonky stars, which Heather offered to piece into a twin-sized top. So Anne and I volunteered to work on the back together – I actually love working on quilt backs, I got to make one for our Graphic quilt last year which was really fun! And I love Anne’s quilts so it was really fun to collaborate with her.
Kristin of Sew, Mama, Sew! graciously cut and gave away four bolts of a Kona gray for charity quilting at our November PMQG meeting, and that gift came in very handy for this project. I also pulled some yardage of serene, beautiful Michael Miller Cotton Couture in Aqua, and a Japanese elephant print I bought a FQ of last year seemed like it might find its way in, too.
I adore improvisational piecing and had a lot of fun making a LOVE “bumper sticker” quilt block for Michelle’s Design Camp bee last year. For this project, my idea was to design and stitch a quiet, comforting message for the child who sleeps under it, in an unfamiliar place, so he or she felt a bit more at home… and mix stars of some kind around my words. I chose the simplest little phrase, good night.
Anne offered to piece some stars, big and small, and ended up making 32 of the super easy, slightly wonky log cabin mini-blocks I used for my Starry Night pillow in Modern Log Cabin Quilting for her tiny “twinkling” yellow stars! She emailed me a photo while I was still on the east coast, and I was really excited!
And then, finally home from our Christmas trip and so ready to get started, cutting lots of strips for improv letter-piecing, and waiting and waiting for my trusty iron to heat up… I noticed something. Surprise! My iron had a gnarly injury on its side and was stone-cold and broken. My friend Mary lent me hers – but I couldn’t get it for a couple of hours. So with precious childcare time ticking, my first two un-pressed letters, “go,” were a wrinkly, puffy mish-mash that should clearly illustrate to anyone why ironing is way, way important in our craft. I can’t believe I’m posting this horrible photo, but there you go. Wow, was I happy to get the borrowed iron later that night and press these guys!
So, using simple strips and improv piecing (and a working iron), I stitched up g-o-o-d and n-i-g-h-t and joined them together to form a simple heart of the back to pass along for Anne to work her star magic on. I truly loved this process – meditative and simple and intuitive. No pattern, no tutorial to write. Just good night. On an impulse I fussy-cut a little elephant in the same width as the body of my “i” and dotted it with that. It’s one perfect elephant and one little section of another one floating above it peeking down, reminding me of a mother watching over her child. My children loved the elephants. They both gave the tiny little dot over the i a kiss, and I hope that some of that warmth stays in that quilt when it covers another little one.
The next morning, along with last-second packing for our San Francisco trip, I snapped some quick photos of my little good night block. I loved how the reflection of the blocks’ back – full of seams and stitching – read so clearly in the mirror. Kind of cool!
Then we zipped over to meet Anne for a coffee, handed the blocks and some last bits of fabric to her, and headed out for our trip! Imagine my happiness when she sent me a preview picture of her stars. So awesome!
And here is another snap of the back with extra gray sashing, right before she brought it to Nancy for its beautiful quilting (thank you, Nancy, for your unfailingly generous gifts!!). It’s coming to the PMQG meeting so we can all see it! Then, Petra and Anne will bind it, Michelle will label it, and we’ll ship it to Austin for Quiltcon.
I feel deeply drawn to charity craft projects, and as the mother of two young children, I am especially grateful to contribute to families in need. Quilts for Quake Survivors was a huge gift to be part of with Daniela, and donating to our own Bradley-Angle House through QfQ was a beautiful end to our project.
And I can’t wait to see our collaborative quilt at the PMQG meeting tonight!!! Room 205 at PNCA, 7 pm.
PS – Thank you, THANK YOU for the iron rec comments on my last post! I’m going with a Black & Decker from Fred Meyer for now. Unfortunately they’re currently out of the one I want (this one) but yay, Michelle lent me her back-up iron for this week!
Just as I started to piece the first couple improv letters for the back of our PMQG Quiltcon charity quilt, I realized that my trusty iron was stone-cold – broken beyond repair with a major crack in the side. Wow.
My friend Mary let me snap hers up to finish the project on the fly, and Michelle has graciously offered to lend me her back-up iron for the next little bit… but if you have a favorite brand or model to recommend, a helpful post or review to link to, or any other iron-choosing suggestions, I would love to hear about them! I sew a lot, mostly quilting cotton and wool, and would love to buy local (Portland, Oregon, USA).
Hope your sewing has been less fraught than mine lately!
PS – I finished the improv letters thanks to the magic of the borrowed iron, and handed them off to Anne to add to with some awesome blocks she made, and I really love how it has all turned out. More on those soon!
Hello and happy new year! I hope you’ve had a great one so far, all two days of it anyway. I can’t believe it’s January suddenly. My 2012 flew past at lightning speed – it was probably my least flickred, least craft-blogged year since I started posting in 2005. Leading Portland Modern Quilt Guild this year was such a wonderful experience, but between the guild, keeping up with two lively little ones, and plenty of writing/work deadlines rolling along, my own little photo/blog world shrank quite a bit. I’m excited to start the new year with some color and sharing a few of my favorite things I made!
I learned how to make bagels, stitched up some skirts for me and Pearl, did a lot of writing, did plenty of charity quilting, took another class with Denyse Schmidt, watched my cuddly baby turn into a big kid in a 3T (!) birthday shirt, and lost track of how many little tote bags and headbands I sewed. With a long East Coast trip on the horizon, my holiday crafting dreams dwindled to baking a bunch of un-photographed cookies, and hosting a party for Pearl and her friends to make their own awesome ornaments. (The Tammis Keefe/Winterkist Christmas tree skirt/poncho I was dreaming of will be a 2013 production… sigh.) On the non-crafty (semi-crafty?) side of things, I started a petition to ban BPA that more than 200,000 people signed (wish me luck with the FDA! It’s been a process), helped organize four quilt shows, got to shake hands with President Obama when he visited Portland, and went to Seattle, Astoria, all over Eastern Oregon, Ashland, Maryland, Washington, DC, Virginia, and North Carolina.
I hope to be over here a lot more often this year. I miss keeping track of things I’m excited to be doing, recipes I loved the most, and most of all reading friends’ blogs. My old standard, Bloglines, crashed/changed around a lot and it looks like I am going to be rebuilding my blog reading list from scratch. The PMQG blogroll is a good start!
Wishing you a happy and lovely new year.
PS – If you’re on instagram I’m westcoastcrafty over there. Please say hi!