Iowa State Fair Sew-In

In my previous blog I showed you some of the Best of Show quilts located in the Varied Industries building. Well, just down the hall from those quilts is the room for the State Fair Sew-In. In it’s ninth year, the Sew-In project is not new, but the creations volunteers will be crafting out of donated scraps of fabric will be completely original. Last year, the Des Moines Area Quilt Guild and trusted fair volunteers finished 437 quilts; since 2009 when the project began, 1,933 blankets have been quilted for Iowa youth. You don’t have to be a sewing expert to try quilting, and the public is welcome to visit the south hallway in the William C. Knapp Varied Industries Building to be a part of the collective effort. Finished quilts are given to kids at agencies such as Child Serve, Angel Tree Camps, Children’s Behavioral Health Unit at Iowa Lutheran Hospital, and Lutheran Social Services of Iowa. Here is a short video clip about the sew-in from IPTV.It features the founder of the sew-in, Sharon Meisenheimer who was there sewing when we were! It is a good sized room with about 20 machines. Noelle and I were just passing through and we came to the end where a volunteer asked us if we wanted to help? Our family was at the fair just 2 days so we had limited time to see and do everything we wanted to. We asked if there was a time commitment and she replied that any amount of time would be great, so we decided we could probably get a quilt top done between the two of us. First on the list is to sign in.Next you choose your quilt top, which can be from pre-cut strips you choose yourself, or a kit you select. We chose a kit with frogs on the print fabrics and greens and yellows for the solids. The kit contains twelve, five inch wide strips that you sew together, the backing and the binding. It was all nicely organized and the gal that helped us gave clear directions.
Another gal, instructed us briefly on the machines, since we sew on a Bernia and these were all basic Janomes. After using them we appreciated our, needle down setting and the knee lift presser foot attachment on our Bernia at home!There is a constant stream of fairgoers passing by, we asked one of them to take our photo!Besides sewing the strips together, you also can pin the top, batting and backs together, machine quilt the tops with straight line quilting or attach the binding, you choose.

The completed quilt measure about 40 x 54, we timed ourselves and were done with this in 14 minutes. I am happy we did this during our day at the fair. We laughed and said, “Like, we don’t do enough sewing at home, we come to the fair and sew too!”The State Fair Sew-In appreciates any donations of fabric, here is a link with that information.Volunteers and donations.Let us know if you have been involved in this project, or other projects like this one. I am really glad we stopped to sew, now we know what it is about, and really, who doesn’t have 14 minutes to sew!

Best of Show Quilts at the Iowa State Fair

In my last blog I did show and tell about some of the quilts, clothing and handiwork in the Varied Industries building at the Iowa State Fair. Here is a sampling of the best of show quilts displayed in separate room on the first floor.
I would estimate there are about 30 quilts, all receiving the highest honor in their category. There really are no words for the quilts and the quilting on them. I am unable to truly show you the beauty of these quilts through photos, to see them up close and in person takes your breath away. This is a small section of one of my favorites, can you believe how beautiful it is?Where does one start to design something like this, and then onto the machine quilting design, they must have a plan to start with and then it grows into something so beautiful.
Here is the full quilt.And, here is another detailed section of it.
In these photos, I hope you can get a sense of how the room is laid out and how the quilts are displayed, similar to the quilts upstairs.
This was another one of my favorites. Maybe it is because I like the colors of nature, or because I feel each block is interconnected. The quilt has a feeling of unity and a sense of calm when you look at it. I feel as if I am in a museum when I am here. I like to look at the quilts from a distance and then look up close and then really close if I can. What I can’t do is touch them, and I would like to because I feel there is something about using your sense of touch to connect, appreciate and remember.
This one too had gorgeous quilting.The next quilt was the last one we saw, Noelle was with me and we both stopped by it at the same time, we knew without reading the write up, there was something special about it.Seldom do we see a quilt with a story attached to it, our breath was taken away as we read the history of this quilt. We hope you can read it as well.It is such a beautiful story about why many of us quilt. We sometimes quilt to keep our families warm. Sometimes we are stressed and quilting helps us relax or makes us happy. Sometimes we just quilt for fun! But do we all hope that what we are sewing will be passed down to the next and the next generation, are we making history with every quilt we make? Are we creating a physical article that will will be shared with our stories as a way of remembering us and our love of quilting? I would say we are:)

Fabrics and Threads at the Iowa State Fair

The great Iowa State Fair is going on now and we were able to go for a few days, here we are in front of Ye Old Mill. Gene Anne and her boyfriend, Spencer, Todd and I and Noelle. This is our 12th year in a row of attending. The Ye Old Mill boat ride is the oldest ride on the fairgrounds, constructed in 1921, it is a 1,500-foot-long enclosed water canal, powered by a paddle wheel. Our family usually goes on it and then we take a photo in front of it every year.
Our state fair is frequently ranked as one of the top events in the country, the Iowa State Fair is the single largest event in the state of Iowa and one of the oldest and largest agricultural and industrial expositions in the country. Annually attracting more than a million people from all over the world, the Iowa State Fair located at East 30th and East University, just 10 minutes from downtown Des Moines is Iowa’s greatest celebration with a salute to the best in agriculture, industry, entertainment and achievement. There is an unbelievable amount of things to see and do and today I will tell you about the Fabrics and Threads open class department which can be viewed on the second floor of the William C. Knapp Varied Industries building.

Anyone can submit entries following the entry guidelines and completing the forms. The board will then mail you an entry tag, which you as an exhibitor complete and submit with your item. For many years I entered a different quilt each year and one year I received an honorable mention. Now you may not think this is a big deal, but it was because most of the quilts exhibited have no ribbons on them. I don’t know the numbers but there are many, many quilts entered each year. Here is a link for this years results.
I will do my best to convey to you the size of this area, as you can see from the photo, you can not see the to the end of this room.I was there in the morning when there were less people, as the day goes on the isles will be packed with people.
The quilts are displayed in sections like this and you can see about 12 to 18 inches of each quilt due to the number of them and limited room. These quilts have all been judged, they are all beautifully designed, pieced and quilted, yet none of them have a ribbon.

While you are here visiting, you can also sign up for a class that will teach you how to make a quilt block.
Along with quilts there are many other entries, such as clothing. On display were ornate costumes, wedding gowns, business suits and any other imaginable article of clothing.
The handiwork of others’ were also on display, tatting, knitting, crocheting, hardanger and many more examples.
The entries chosen as best of show are displayed front and center and here is the quilt awarded that title this year. It is a bright and whimsical one! Usually we see a very traditional type of quilt as best of show, I was surprised.
It is beautifully designed, pieced and quilted.
I hope you have enjoyed my little tour of some of the entries in the Fabrics and Threads department. In closing here is a photo from my sky glider ride overlooking the fair grounds.

Points of Interest Progress

Points of Interest is the quilt we learned how to make on day 1 of our retreat, here is a photo of the quilt from the retreat. The class was taught by Jo Kramer and Kelli Jo Hanken who also designed the quilt and organized our Bonnie Hunter retreat. The quilt was originally selected by and published in American Patchwork and quilting’s April 2017 magazine.Prior to the retreat attendees were given cutting instructions, so as to cut our fabric for the quilt prior to class. There were no guidelines for fabric, we could make the quilt “scrappy” using an assortment of fabrics or you could use coordinating fabrics and this is what I did. Our daughter, Gene Anne helped me choose the fabric for this quilt from Quilter’s Window in New Hampton, Iowa. I was looking for colors in the neutral family and looking for colors that I had not used in the past. Here you can see how the print fabrics will be emphasized by the grey background.At first I was unsure about exactly how to follow the cutting instructions, but after a few questions were answered by Jo and Kelli on Facebook, it became clear and easy!

To make the star points we used the Tri-Rec Triangle rulers by Darlene Zimmerman. I purchased these and have worked with rulers similar to these in the past. These notions make your cutting accurate and are time saving. There is an A and a B template, here you can see the grey was cut from the A’s and the green fabric was cut from the B’s.This photo shows how the fabric is cut into 3 1/2 inch strips, 4 layers at a time, ruler is placed on top and then the edge is cut to give you a rectangular shaped piece. The pattern calls for 284 of these and 284 of these reversed. That is a lot of triangles!

In this photo you can see my B triangles, I only needed 284 of these.
With the cutting complete, the pieces were packed up for the retreat. At the retreat, Jo and Kelli showed us the step by step process of how to sew these pieces together. Here is an example of my completed pieces before they are sewn together to form a block. I am happy with my color selection.
And here is a photo of a completed block!Typically with quilts, you make all the blocks and then sew them together, but wait! This is why it is important to follow the instructions. Look what they show. See how some are blocks and some are partial blocks.Here is an example of my layout before sewing some of the blocks together.In my retreat blog post I was planning on sewing 30 minutes a day, well that happened on some days, but not all. Here is my progress so far. It may not look like much, but I am very pleased with how it is coming along and I am excited to see how it looks when it is all done!
To my other retreat attendees, how are your Points of Interest quilts doing, let us know!

Wild By Nature, a quilt by Melissa

Melissa continues to be busy with her quilting and has brought me another of her quilts. This one is Wild By Nature Stepping Stones.With an inspired throw pillow she found on Pinterest and not a pattern to follow, Melissa sat down with graph papered designed this one. The pattern was easy enough to figure out. She simply cut white on white yardage to 2 1/2 by 5 inch strips and sewed them onto 5 inch charms. The charms and the accent piece are laid opposite each other to make strips. Then a 2 1/2 inch strip is added between the charm strip. She also tells me, “I have been inspired by another quilter to sit down and put my self-designed quilt patterns down on paper and with her help will develop a pattern. I am hoping one my kiddos go back to school, I can take the time to develop patterns for three quilts I have recently made.”

The fabric she choose is from Maywood Studios, Wild By Nature collection. Melissa said, “The bright, beautiful fabric collection caught my eye. It took me a little time to figure out if I wanted to use a white on white fabric or a tonal colored fabric. I Love simple white on white fabrics and used a Riley Blake, Snow white on whiteI keep in my stash to use with these colorful and beautiful charm blocks.”

Here is a photo of the back of her quilt top as all of her tops come to me with the seams pressed open. If I remember correctly, she prefers to do it this way because the top lays flatter rather than all seams pressed one way and this is the way she has always done it. It must be working for her, because she does a beautiful job of matching up her seams!

I asked her if the fabric and the pattern she choose for the quilt work well together? Melissa said, “These beautiful bright fabrics stand on their own, so I paired it up with the staple white. A lot of times, I buy fabric and then wait for a pattern to find the fabric. This poses a problem most of the time, because I usually run out of fabric before I am done making the quilt.”

When I asked her about a quilting pattern, she said, “I didn’t come with a specific pantograph or thread color in mind, just like with my Tula Pink quilt, we went off the grid and decided to use a simple pantograph with a colored thread. I love how this longarm design offsets the whimsical bright fabric” When working with Melissa we laid out several colors of thread, the obvious choice for most customers would be a white, but she picked yellow and doesn’t it look lovely!
The pantograph is Figure 8 and I quilted it in a vertical design. The design and thread she choose, ties the quilt together very nicely.
If you remember from other posts, Melissa is a busy Mother and a farm wife, so she usually asks me to bind her quilts by machine for her. I am happy to do this, so when she picks this one up, it is ready to be given to her sister-in-law as a house warming gift.
Let me know what you think about using a colored thread for quilting on white fabric?
Also, what suggestions would you give Melissa for writing her own quilt patterns? Let’s help her out and make it as easy for her as possible and then we can make quilt like hers!

Calmar Lutheran Church Quilt

I was recently able to help out the Calmar Lutheran Church with a quilt for their beloved Pastor Phil and his wife Pastor Virginia “Ginny” Olson, who were retiring. My friend Lana contacted me about quilting it in a timely manner and of course I said yes. I was able to complete it in about a week and have it to their binder, so she could finish it.

The quilt was 92 x 105, and it is a 9 patch and snowball alternating block quilt. The quilter tells me this is a pattern she found and has been wanting to try it for a few years, and she has found this is a great pattern for scrap fabric. I quilted it using the Plush pantograph with cream thread to coordinate with the fabric.

The blue flowered border fabric and the cream fabric were purchased, all the other fabrics were from her stash. The pattern and the fabrics complemented each other.

A little background on this quilter, who requests to be unamed, has made many quilts, she could not recall how many but she did know she has kept 8 quilts along with some wall hangings. She tells me she enjoys quilting and she is good friends with her sewing machine! She comes from a very talented family with diverse creative interests and sewing is her talent.

This quilter is noticing a shift in the making of quilts now, she sees more quilters making “works of art” quilts, not quilts for function or use. She also notes that this generation would rather buy a “modern” quilt at a department store, rather than receiving a scrap quilt.

She also makes quilts for the high school seniors who belong to their church. I know of many churches in this area who do this. Such a wonderful, thoughtful handmade item to bring with you as you leave home for school or work. A constant reminder from those who serve the church and a reminder of your faith.
This quilter also makes quilts for Lutheran World Releif charities and T-Shirt quilts as well. It sounds like she does it all!

This gal is just one of several quilters at her church who work together to serve. Tell us about your church or charity that you sew for, I know there are many, many quilters out there donating their time, fabric and talents to help others.

Quilt Retreat

I recently returned from my first quilt retreat. Jo, from Jo’s Country Junction invited me. She felt that I would enjoy it, I would get to know Bonnie Hunter and people would be able to meet me in regards to my longarm quilting business. I was hesitant about attending for a few reasons, first off it would be 3 days away from home, all I could think of is, I will be even further behind with my work when I get home. Second, I haven’t pieced a quilt in almost 5 years because I have been working on other things and busy with my longarm quilting. I just could not imagine going.

I really only thought about it for about a day and then committed because I knew if I weighed the pros ands cons, I would not go. Let me tell you, I am very glad that I attended the retreat. I learned many new piecing skills and techniques, I learned all about Bonnie and met more great quilters.For those of you who have not heard of Bonnie Hunter, she is like a rockstar of quilting. She is known internationally and her retreats are booked out through 2019. Bonnie has a great backstory, is a down to earth gal and teaches quilters how to make beautiful quilts out of left over fabric, “scrap quilting”, you can check out her site Quiltville to learn more.
Jo and her daughter, Kelli started organizing this retreat in 2015 as it takes about 2 years for all the planning to come together. It was held this year in Oelwein in 2 locations, mine was at the Community Center where 58 of us attended. Here is a photo of the layout.There are tables set up for the quilters. We bring our sewing machines and other supplies needed to sew, they provided irons, ironing boards and cutting supplies. Here is a photo of my area.This may be hard to understand, but getting my sewing area situated was the hardest part of the day. I have only sewn at home, and if you have seen my photos you know I have a sewing table, a cutting table and my other sewing supplies set up in a large area. So sewing on a section of a table was challenging at first but after a while it worked out ok.
I shared my table space with two other quilters from Illinois, Mary and Luanne. You just can’t believe how kind and helpful they were, oh and very funny!
In the three days of the retreat we worked on 3 new projects. We also had a vendor show, 2 quilt trunk shows and had two speakers. I will be sharing my projects with you in future blogs as I continue to work on them. I would like to set aside 30 minutes each day to complete these, I will keep you posted!

During the retreat I was able to meet so many new quilters and was able to meet those who already read my blog, a face to the name now! Please leave a comment if you were at the retreat and let us know how you are doing with your 3 quilts.

Once again I am glad Jo invited me to the retreat and I am glad I said yes. Sometimes when we stay in our own little world, we have no idea what we are missing out on:)

A Post From Gene Anne

Hi, my name is Gene Anne Berst. I am your guest blogger for today. I am 17 years old and I go to North Fayette Valley in West Union, Iowa, where I will be a senior this year. After that I will be going on to Wartburg College. At Wartburg I will be majoring in psychology. My favorite hobbies are dancing and cheering. I also enjoy reading, writing and doing makeup.

I have been making quilts since I was in 5th grade. I have made 6 quilts since then. My favorite quilt I have made is a winter themed, flannel quilt. It was the first quilt that I ever made. My newest quilt, I made for my dorm room at Wartburg College. I wanted it to fit my twin mattress, with a little extra fabric on all sides. This will probably be the last quilt I make before college, so that is why I decided to make it Wartburg themed.

I didn’t know what pattern I wanted to use, but I knew I wanted it to be geometric. My mom and I Google searched geometric patterns and found this pattern, which is “herringbone.” The original pattern we found was too small for my twin bed, so we modified it and added a row of blocks.
My mom and I went to Quilter’s Window in New Hampton to find the fabric for my quilt. I like to go here because I have used fabric from the store since I began making quilts and I know the workers well, and they know my fabric preferences. I also know they have very good quality fabric. For the colors, I took inspiration from the pattern we found on line. They used all yellow and grey patterns. I really like how this looks, so I decided to use mainly orange and grey, with black and white accents. I wanted all the colors to match Wartburg. I chose these fabrics because I liked how they look against each other. For example, I think that the dark grey makes the orange really pop.
I started off by cutting all the fabric out. I had my mom cut the fabric because I had problems with it slipping. The oranges and grey in the middle were all cut into 6-inch blocks. This part was very easy and we had extra fabric left. Once the blocks were cut, I marked a line diagonally, using a ruler, across one of the six inch blocks, pined them together (one orange, one grey). Next I sewed down each side of the diagonal line. After that, I cut right down the diagonal block. There was then two squares of orange and black triangles. Once the blocks were cut apart, I ironed them, and snipped off the corners.
Next following the pattern photo we laid out the blocks. Then I sewed all the small blocks together and continued to sew the blocks until there were rows. In between sewing the blocks together, I ironed the seams so they laid flat. My mom helped me finish the top by sewing some of the the rows together. I don’t like sewing the rows together because I struggle with marrying the seams.
After the quilt center was done, we cut the small white and black inner border and sewed it onto the quilt. This took a long time for me to sew as I wanted it to be perfect. Once the small border was done, I began with the outside black border. We measured the quilt in three different places on each side, averaged that number out, and cut the black border to fit that number. This was done so the border would not be waving, but instead lay flat. After that, my mom sewed on the black border on the quilt. I did not want to do this because I didn’t want to mess it up.
I am excited to finish my quilt and I will not be using it until January in my dorm room. To finish my quilt, I will need to longarm quilt it and sew the binding on. I am planning on using a pantograph to machine quilt it. In the past, I have only done free hand swirls on the quilts and I am nervous about using the pantograph, but I think it will look good on my quilt.
I had a large amount of fabric left when I finished my quilt top. I decided to make a quick, easy pillowcase from the left over fabric. I did this by sewing three different oranges together in a row, and then added black on the end. It was very easy, and I finished it within an hour. I am also considering making a rug with more of the left over fabric. I have looked into it, and think it will complete my dorm room.

I brought my finished quilt back to the shop to show Denise!
The last time I was at the shop with my mom, helping her pick out fabric for her Bonnie Hunter retreat, I saw a store sample backpack that caught my eye. It was very unique and I had never seen anything like it before. It was so cute, I knew I had to make it. We bought the pattern and the fabric and I have it completed already. We took photos, so I will write another blog and show you how it turned out!

Little Brown Church Wedding

Our family attended a wedding at The Little Brown Church in the Vale located just east of Nashua, Iowa. Our daughter, Noelle was a bridesmaid for the wedding, Amanda, the bride is a dear friend and a high school classmate. Almost everyone around here is familiar with this church, but for those of you who are not please check out the link. It is a very small church and people from all over come to be married there and renew their wedding vows, it is a simple intimate setting to celebrate with your closest friends and family.
The Monday before the wedding one of the other bridesmaids contacted me about her dress. She had just picked it up, and the alteration place had hemmed her dress and it was not to be hemmed at all. I told her to come over and I would see if I could help her.
She and her mother arrived and she put the dress on, it was 2 inches too short in the front and 3 inches too short in the back. Her mother and I worked together to take out the 1/2 inch hem, yikes, how is a person suppose to lengthen this dress! The fabric that was cut off was not sent with them either. As you can see in the photo I do not have much to work with. The fabric is fraying terribly and who uses black thread on a blue dress?
The mother knew that Noelle was also a bridesmaid and wondered if we could use any of her dress. I told them that I would do my best to lengthen her dress and that the bridesmaid should paint her toenails extra pretty for Saturday because they will be for sure showing!
The first thing I did was to add Noelle’s extra satin fabric layer that I had cut off, to the back of this gown. The dresses had a corset back with very long ties. I took off as much as I could from both dresses and added that as well to entire dress hem.
The last step I did was to add the extra sheer over lay fabric from Noelle’s dress only to the back of this dress. The seam was noticeable, so much so, I felt it would be distracting if I did it in the front. When they came to pick op the dress on Friday, we all decided it was better than when they brought it and she would look beautiful for the wedding.
Here is a photo of the wedding party, from a distance you cannot tell who is wearing the dress that is to short!
Here are a few after the ceremony candid photos. These gals were all classmates in high school along with Amanda the bride.It was a beautiful day for this beautiful bride.A photo of the family, minus Victoria.And one more of Noelle.Have any of you had dress alterations mishaps like this, or is it just me? Share your story and your solutions! Happy quilting:)

Judy’s Quilt

This quilt belongs to Judy, one of my new customers, let me tell you about the quilt and little bit about her. First off when Judy made this quilt her Mother’s health was stable, and as the weeks have passed her Mom was hospitalized for a time and now is resting at home with the medical professionals telling the family her life may be nearing the end. I have been following them on Facebook and Judy is remembering the quilts she has made for her Mom which are now blanketing her in love at home. Judy also talks about a Swedish Rye Bread her Mom made at Christmas time and that they made it when she came home, reminding them of good times. Please say a little prayer for our quilting sister, Judy and her family.
Judy’s Mom taught her to sew when she was 9, and she has made over 40 quilts and has kept about 10 of them for herself. Judy enjoys quilting because she loves how a quilt feels, the creative process involved, and to give them as gifts. Making quilts has also gotten her through some difficult years, “It is good therapy to make a quilt”, I think we all can agree with her on that! She currently lives in South Carolina, but has lived most of her life in the midwest, being born and raised in Iowa. Judy learned to quilt while living in Singapore for a few years around 2000. The class she took was taught by an australian and they hand pieced that quilt.
The fabric for this quilt Judy bought because of the bright colors and she thinks her 3 grandchildren, who are all under 2 1/2 years old, will enjoy it when they come to visit. It is from Color Works Concepts by Northcott. Notice the pieced border, this is something new she wanted to try. In the instructions she sent me she tells me the borders are a bit “wonky-sorry”. I have to say, these borders are awesome! Her piecing was very accurate, the border laid flat and was easy to quilt.I asked her about the pattern and she said it is a jelly roll quilt. She would recommend this for a quick method of putting a quilt top together. I’m with her, don’t we all need a quick quilt from time to time.
Judy choose the quilting pantograph, Fluffy with white thread. It is a simple open design and I think it complements the quilt. Here is the back of the quilt, isn’t this great! I can imagine her little grandchildren will have fun playing on either side of it.
This is the finished quilt measuring 68 x 89.
Judy, I am glad you went out of your comfort zone and tried something new and that you are keeping this one for yourself. It is a wonderful quilt and will brighten your day.