Readers Get Together

We've been overwhelmed by the reader response to our newly formed APQ Club. Here are just a few of the examples we've received of how readers get together to have fun, do good, and quilt!


Traveling by ferry to areas accessible only by air or water, Liz Bacom and the Blue Canoe Quilters of Petersburg, Alaska, have gathered for quilting cruises along the Alaska Marine Highway in southeast Alaska. As Liz says, "Because most of the communities are accessible only by air or water, the Alaska Marine Highway is our highway system in SE Alaska. People use the ferry to go to school athletic events, medical appointments, shopping, and visit family and friends."

Of one cruise, Liz says, "Last year we took a ferry from Petersburg to Skagway, stayed overnight, then took another ferry in the afternoon for a long trip back to Petersburg via Juneau and Sitka (36 hours). We were able to set up our machines in the dining room or in the bar. It all depended on the passenger load and if we could find a place we could all sit near each other! We were the talk of the ferry, from the crew to the passengers. People were fascinated with our machines, our gadgets, our projects, and our adventure, visiting us frequently to monitor our progress on each block."

The women of the Blue Canoe Quilters (a subgroup of the local quilt guild) are varied in their interests and backgrounds but share a common bond: getting away from the day-to-day grind. Liz says, "Life is so busy, and it's nice to get away to do something enjoyable with no interruptions. The quilting is fun, going shopping is great, the scenery can't be beat, but the best thing for me is friendship."

Their tips? Have projects cut ahead of time, do serious packing with rolling totes, and share quilting tools. The featherweight is the machine of choice because of its size. Irons can easily overload circuits, so they've learned to keep those to a minimum.

In northern Iowa, Violet Ellingson and a dozen of her classmates from the Northwood-Kensett class of '61 have stayed in touch for a good cause -- making quilts for each student at the Peace House Academy under construction near Arusha, in Tanzania, Africa. A project of the Peace House Foundation (headquartered in Minneapolis), the academy is set to open this spring and will house students 13 to 18 years old from families in which at least one parent has died from AIDS.

At a 2005 class reunion brunch, class members discovered that many in attendance were quilters, while several more wanted to learn to quilt. Fast-forward two years and now the "Classmate Quilters of Iowa" (hailing from Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska) meet almost monthly to share what's been accomplished, sort through donated fabrics, and do a little quilting. Classmates who live farther away have given completed quilt tops and generous amounts of money to further the cause. Although varied in quilting skill level, the Classmate Quilters have made 75 quilts and have visions of completing 120 quilts by April 2007.

Individuals or clubs interested in additional information or contributing orphan fabrics or quilts should contact Barb Neils at info@peacehousefoundation.org.

Courtesy of the Internet, Monica Solorio-Snow of Astoria, Oregon, has discovered a world of hip, young crafters. Blogs (Web sites that function like combination journal, guide to interesting links, and message board) had typically been associated with politics, social issues, Iraq, religion, sports, news, etc. But after blogging about current events and politics for a few years, Monica was pleasantly surprised when she stumbled onto bloggers who were actually talking about quilting, stitching, and crafts.

Now a "crafty" blogger herself (her blog at http://happinesszombie.blogspot.com focuses on "quilting, stitching, and good living"), Monica connects with quilting friends through swaps, challenges, and posting comments. "Not only has it been a way for me to inspire others," she says, "but I get so inspired myself by others!"

"For me, crafty blogging is like my own little online quilt guild, and I've hand-picked my members! We have show and tell, we talk about our families and lives, we talk about a new fabric purchase and what quilt shop we found it at, we talk about patterns and quilting projects, we talk about food and recipes Sometimes, we treat each other to projects we've designed... it's JUST like guild!"

To find out more, read Monica's tips and explanations of crafty blogs:
"Leaving comments and accepting them is how you socialize in the crafty blogging world. Comments allow one to leave a comment of course, but it also enables a quick communication if one chooses. Comments lead to blog hopping, which can lead to e-mails, which can lead to friendships. I don't respond to all my comments, and it's not a bloggy social faux pas to do so.

"Blogs have what is called a BlogRoll on either their right or left sidebar. Not everyone calls it a blogroll, for example I call mine "The Lunch Box -- Bloglishous Delights". Some call it "Friends," "Where I Go," etc. When making a post, we will also include the link when speaking of someone else's blog. This is one reaon finding other crafty blogs is really easy -- almost too easy! One click leads to three more clicks... which leads to six more clicks... and on and on it goes! All one needs to do is land on someone's blog to find a gateway to lots more. When others leave a comment on a post of mine, their blog is linked to their name and off to another blog I go!

"Having a blogroll is very important. Chances are it's how others have found you, and you in turn find others. It's how you find your niche or common interest blogs. It's an unwritten bloglaw of sharing. Some blogs that are business connected do not have blogrolls, and that's acceptable. It just is.

"Swaps are something I just discovered this summer. Like a blogroll, crafty bloggers will list what swaps they are participating in on their blog's sidebar. One swap I was in was stitchery-related (a vintage teatowel swap). The other swap was a Red & Aqua swap. in which I designed and made a little quilt for my partner with red and aqua fabric (with the leftover fabric, I made her an aqua check book cover and gave her a pair of aqua socks, too!). I enjoyed the giving part as much as receiving, and making the friends was the icing on the cakes.

"Sometimes a crafty blogger will host the swap directly from her blog, and other times a swap will be hosted by a person through a professional swapping site like swap-bot.com. Swapping can be a risk, so it's best to participate in a swap that's from one of your favorite blogs and you "know" many or some of the people in the swap, or at least hosting the swap. Most swaps are international, so that's exciting when you hope you get to swap with say someone say form Paris or London!"

Tap into the creativity of others and stretch your technique and fabric comfort zones by doing a "shoebox challenge." Denise Ostrom and Ladies of the Lake guild members in Mahtomedi, Minnesota, each chose a quilt pattern, then filled a shoebox with a sample block, directions, and some or all of the fabric. Boxes rotate monthly and members are eagerly awaiting the "reveal party," which will happen when all participants have made a block for each shoebox.

Here are Denise's tips for a successful Shoebox Challege:

  1. It's really important that each person include a completed sample block in their shoebox materials -- this prevents a lot of misunderstandings later!
  2. If you're going to include something that requires a bit more skill, like applique, paper piecing, etc., that's great, because one of the benefits of Shoebox is to get people to try new things. However, as the box owner you need to be okay with less-than-perfect results if some of these folks are new to these techniques. Likewise, box contributors needs to be willing to try new things if they participate in the Shoebox project.
  3. You need someone to put together the schedule (listing the order of the rotation) so each person always knows who they are go give their box to each month, and who they receive the next box from the following month (these people are always the same throughout the rotation). A copy of that schedule should be kept in each box, and as each person completes that month's block, they should initial their name on the schedule. This way, no one gets skipped or forgotten.
  4. Stick to the schedule! Try hard not to get behind -- if people keep their boxes longer than a month, this means the next person in the schedule has less than a month to complete their block. I also caution against working too far ahead, which can also goof up the schedule. Remind participants that it's a great idea to do their block as soon as they get the box instead of waiting until the end of the month.

The J Gals from Litchfield, Minnesota, met in 1996 as strangers at a quilt retreat. Jan, Joanne, Jill, Jeanne, and Jodine were standing in line for show-and-tell and realized that they were from the same town but had never met! After their instant friendship, others at the retreat began calling them the J Gals and the name stuck.

These quilters, who each felt isolated because they thought they were the only one in town who quilted, have met weekly at Jan's house ever since. They quilt, do handwork, trouble shoot, brainstorm and swap fabric. They celebrate birthdays out on the town, gather together for quilt shop hopping, go on retreats -- pretty much finding any excuse to have fun with each other.

As any close group would do, the J Gals stand by their friends during good times and bad. They hung together with Jan through her first bout of breast cancer, her second one, and now her third. Gatherings have become more bittersweet as they help Jan make a wedding quilt, baby quilts, and a scrapbook for her daughter. On September 30, 2006, the J Gals met as a group at the Mall of America for Quilt Pink to honor and encourage their friend Jan. Wearing monogram pins with big Js on their pink T-shirts, the women worked on pink quilts, laughed a lot, hugged, and wiped away a few tears. As Joanne says, "It's good to have fun, but it's also good to have friends."

In New Brunswick, Canada, Shelley Dionne and friends have formed Girls Night Out as a subgroup of their local quilt guild. Shelley says, "We started it because our guild is such a size now that it is hard during meeting night to get the personal time with another quilter that we wish to have."

Meeting about once a month at a different member's house, what's constant with this small group are snacks (preferably chocolate), a pot of tea, and lots of conversation about "quilty" things. They recommend having projects cut out ahead of time so you can all sit around the table and get straight to sewing and sharing; cutting is something that needs your focus and there is simply too much going on.

"We are all experienced quilters but do different things so when we step out of our comfort zone to try something new, there is always someone who can give advice and help," Shelley says. In fact, she's completed six projects because of the motivation she's received. An added benefit is they've found emotional support and the opportunity to slow down and feed their creative souls, if only for a few hours. Shelley says, "The best thing I get out of our little group meetings is being able to talk about quilty things with other quilters. I am the only quilter in my family and these girls bring quilting to life for me."

It's a Mystery

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Currently known as the Nanu Nanus (which members say is Mork and Mindy language for all of the UFOs they've been trying to finish), this group of 13 quilters in Fort Collins, Colorado, definitely isn't afraid of reinventing themselves. Over the past five years, they've also called themselves the Batty Babes (the year they made a Halloween quilt block-of-the-month-style) and the Ho Ho Ding Dongs (when they worked on a Christmas quilt the following year).

To ensure attendance in the normally hectic summer months, Kyle Redente and Becky Martin organized a 2006 summer schedule based on "Where in the world are Kyle and Becky?" Members learned where to gather through a series of scavenger hunt type clues that they were e-mailed. They met at 'off the beaten path' locations like gazebos with flower gardens, local band concerts, and the city park next to a replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Motivation is a big part of this group, and what would it be without a theme? For 2006, they decided on Quilting Queens, honoring one member who was 1953 Homecoming queen of the local university. Each member was given a foam crown and got to add "jewels" to their crowns as they accomplished certain criteria, such as organizing their fabric stash, cutting out a project, or binding a quilt.

Members think it's amazing how much they've accomplished with their fun-loving "awards" system. However, as Kyle says, "Probably the best thing about our quilting group is the love and friendships that have grown as 13 wonderful women continue meeting together and sharing their lives. Our projects are secondary."

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