Thursday, October 28, 2010


AQS lost  a good friend today.

Let me rephrase that.

I lost a good friend today.

Marge Boyle, director of sales and marketing, passed away suddenly the evening of October 26, 2010. We found out about it first thing today (well, yesterday; it's after midnight on the 28th now).

No one saw this coming. Marge had not been ill.

Such a shock.

Such a strange day at work.

It was my privilege to write a Memorial Page about her, which will appear in the January issue of American Quilter and on a banner slide of our web site home page ( You can read our official statement of loss there.

I'd like to be more personal here, if I may.

Marge and I shared the responsibility of posting, but she rarely had time, so most of what you've read here  has come from me. She did enjoy posting after her biannual trips to Market, though.

She'll miss this one. She would have arrived in Houston about 12 hours from now.

As at any work place, you develop friendships. At AQS, Marge was one of my closest friends. Don't get me wrong; the staff at AQS gets along so well, it's sometimes scary. We're ALL friends. But you know how it is; some are closer than others. This is what I mean about Marge.

She and her husband, Jim, were one of two couples my husband, Dennis, and I socialized with. We shared a lot in common: no kids; dogs we adored; humor; a taste for good wine and good food, especially home-cooked "gourmet."

Marge was sometimes my roommate when we were on the road.

I took care of her the time she was so sick in Des Moines.

She was my peer. We were compatible. We got along.

In any company, this is wonderful. In a small company, this is special.

We worked so well together, each contributing our strengths. A good team.

I especially loved when we polished marketing copy together. I wrote and edited the draft. She'd read it and then we'd sit at my computer, brainstorming and saying different words until we made it perfect. I loved how we both "knew" without saying that we'd hit on the right phrase.

For a wordsmith, there are few finer moments.

Marge enjoyed those moments, too.

Good times.

She shared her knowledge unselfishly. This was never more appreciated than the first few months I worked at AQS. She'd only been there a year longer, but she truly was a pathfinder for me, explaining and describing things small and large. How to change the phone and computer out-of-office messages; where the extra toilet paper hides; how she saw the quilt industry.

I know, I know. Marge had a lot of friends. She had a long history in retail and then years in quilting, and she was well-liked at work, so I'm hardly alone in her loss.

If you'd like to post a message about Marge, you may do that here or on our Facebook page.

But she won't be there every day to share our latest dog (mis)adventures, or to just talk about the weather, or to conjure up magic prose about the best quilt books in America.

Oh, dear.

I'll miss her.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Slow Quilting

You may have heard of the Slow Food Movement, which is an umbrella term encompassing ideas such as buying local produce, growing your own food, and cooking in more than eating out.

I suggest there is a corollary to quilting, but it isn't complete or perfectly accurate. I'm not talking about buying fabric made locally (although supporting your local quilt shop is always nice), or growing the cotton with which to make your own fabric.

Instead, what I mean is that slow quilting is what many, many quilters must do just because we are so busy with the rest of our lives. No matter how many gizmos and gadgets we own to help speed up the quilting process, it just takes many of us a long time to get from concept to finished quilt -- and we should accept that.

And what about when quilters choose to create quilts slowly, instead of quickly and fast? What about those of us who choose more complicated patterns or projects, or who prefer to work entirely by hand? Or to start a project by dyeing fabric and thread, even?

Thankfully, there is room in the quilting universe for everyone of every persuasion. It's a rare treat for me to attend a class or workshop, but when the opportunity arose recently to study (again) with Cindy Blackberg, I was quite content to hand piece a feathered star block. Two and a half days of quietly, slowly putting together one of quilting's more challenging blocks was a real tonic.

And something you may not know, if you've never hand-pieced a block before, is that it can be about as fast as machine piecing if you've got any experience, and, the finished block has a distinctive 3-D quality to it. I'm not a good photographer but I tried to show this in the first photo; those seams were lifting the block right off my ironing board, so I spritzed them with water and let the block dry for a day. Had this been machine pieced, the smaller stitches would have helped compress the seams and the block would have lain flatter before pressing.

Then I flipped the block face up and spritzed again, with another day for drying. If there had been blocking problems, this is when I would have pinned my block to make it square, but Cindy's cutting method reduces bias edges to almost zero, and my block was true.

Talk about sharp points! There are times when hand work brings a certain precision to your work. I know, I know; machine precision is also eminently achievable, but hand work brings so much control -- no machine between you and the result. Just your own body and rhythm.

Now that it's complete I'll contemplate what to do with my feathered star block (I'm sure I won't make an entire quilt of these blocks, as satisfying as this one was to make), and that, too, can be a process as fast or slow as the quilter involved allows, requires, needs, or wants.

Isn't this a great hobby? Bottom line: fast or slow, enjoy the time you spend quilting.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Making Quilt History One Show at a Time

If you've been to more than one national or international quilt show, you know what to expect -- amazing, mind-blowing quilts; inspirational vendor displays and unlimited shopping opportunities; and life-changing special quilt exhibits.

Thus it was at this past week's third annual AQS Quilt Show and Contest in Des Moines, Iowa. Contest quilts came from 40 states and five countries; winners came from 18 states and 1 country. Vendors came from all over, as did the special exhibits. And there was also the always-terrific, prolific, prodigious display from the Des Moines Area Quilt Guild.

Aside: Lest you think hand quilting has finally lost out to machine quilting except for major hand quilting or hand workmanship awards, check out the Des Moines winners, especially the Best Wall Quilt award:

Even in a job where we see quilts day in and day out, the show displays never cease to make us stop, take a deep breath, and appreciate the creativity and artistry of the quilt makers who enter the show.

And every once in a while, something special comes along. AQS tries to bring the best of these once-in-a-lifetime exhibit experiences to every show. Des Moines 2010 was no exception, but I had a personal favorite: Men and the Art of Quiltmaking, curated by Joe Cunningham. Joe is the author of the recent AQS eponymous book describing the quiltmaking art of 30 guys who make quilts. (Call 1-800-626-5420 to ask about buying a copy.)

The exhibit wasn't the first display of quilts made by men, and it wasn't intended to make any statement other than to represent the book, says Joe. It was history-making, all the same. None of these quilts had ever been seen together before and it is highly unlikely they will ever be together again. Voila - history. Furthermore, several of the artists were on hand during the show to discuss their work. This may be common at gallery exhibits, but not so much at large quilt shows. Voila - history encore.

The longer we have a robust quilting tradition and open venues in guilds, clubs and shows, the less "rare" will be any of the anomalies that have flavored the c. 1976 quilt revival -- e.g., 3-D quilts, art quilts, quilts by men, quilts from specific materials, etc. So it's one for the history books each time an exhibit is mounted for us to behold, admire, draw from, and remember.

Join us for the next piece of quilt history making in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, March 16 - 19, 2011. Enter or attend; either way, you'll be a part of creating quilt history.