Adventure - A Quilt for Not a Book

Improv quilting Doe fabric


36'' x 42''

My husband defines the distinction between an excursion and an adventure as this: When you go on an excursion everyone makes it back. When you go on an adventure, somebody or something doesn't survive the trip. He is morbid and sarcastic, that man. 

This quilt is definitely an adventure.

A few years ago I had an idea for a book. I was fresh off the publication of You Inspire Me to Quilt, still riding high. Over bourbon on the best patio over I sat down with an industry friend, a good colleague, and we were brainstorming ideas for my next book. We both got really excited about one particular idea. It was stellar. Or maybe it was the bourbon talking?

Walking Foot Quilting Aurifil Thread
Robert Kaufman Essex Linen

Nope, it's still a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, my publisher did not necessarily agree. Even though I've published three books I can't just throw an idea at them and have them send a contract my way immediately. So I took a few months to flesh it out. Because of the nature of the concept this required more time than I usually need at this stage. A book proposal is necessarily detailed as it is - table of contents, sample chapter, and quilt examples all required - but this one needed even more to get the concept across. I got all this together and then they came back with a request for an actual quilt to see the concept in action.


Sure, okay. I went right to it. Got the quilt top all made, got it basted, then stopped. Life got busy. And it's never really stopped. No excuse, because I've made other quilts in the meantime. But the mojo slipped away after the initial burst of work. Then the reality of whether I truly had the time to actually write another book sunk in. I did not. Not for about 2 years there. I so desperately wanted to, but unless I became both a) suddenly flush with cash and b) able to function on zero sleep for months at a time it wasn't going to happen.

I won't lie, I shed some tears over this. Frustrated and annoyed at the position I was in - even though I put myself in that exact position - I wallowed for a bit. I got depressed seeing the success of others in the industry via social media, jealous even. It was ugly and mean spirited on my part, to be perfectly honest. And that is before I beat myself up on the regular about it all.

Not sure how exactly, but gaining some perspective changed everything. At some point I took stock of my own successes and felt proud. I started to play my own game. I saw all the freelance, short burst writing I was doing as practice for everything else. My schedule, or at least my approach to it, allowed for more time. So I re-pitched the book concept. 

Shot down again.

This time though I decided the quilt I'd started needed to not languish on the closet shelf. Up there it mocked me, made me feel like a failure. It was time to reclaim that part of my creative history. At worst, it becomes another story to tell at a trunk show (or on a blog). At best, it becomes a cool quilt gifted to a beautiful baby. So here it is. 

This quilt went on a creative adventure. The book never came back alive, but that's okay. The journey was still worth it. And who knows, that concept hasn't died entirely...

Improvisational Quilts Half Square Triangles
Carolyn Friedlander Doe Fabric

Quilt Details:

-  Fabric is a couple of Mini Charm packs of Carolyn Friedlander Doe mixed with her curated selection of Kona cottons. It was a give away from Quilt Market a few years back. The background is Essex Linen.

- Backing is also from Doe.

- Binding is Carolyn's crosshatch in this amazing green. I wish I could find more.

- Quilted with a pale yellow from Aurifil in straight lines changing directions. There were a million knots to bury with the quilting pattern I chose, but I do love the end result.

How Sunday Morning Quilts Changed My Life

My life changed in a lame but spectacular ski accident. I went tumbling after my ski likely hit a rock hidden in fresh powder. Initially, I heard the injuries more than felt them. Although I managed to get up and put my skis back on, one push off and I was back on the ground again. Then down the hill, full of shame and frustration, in the ski patrol sled. The romantic weekend my husband and I planned lost in hospital visits, wheelchairs, and pain medication. The year we thought we would have lost in reduced mobility and independence, physical therapy, and a change in the parenting dynamic.

I wouldn't change a thing about it.

That time sitting around, facing my frustrations about so many things, brought me here. It was during that time that I first spoke to Amanda Jean, that I contemplated a career change seriously. It was during that time that I decided to pursue a long held dream to write a book.

You see, I was a kid who loved to write stories. With my own kids now I think that is an instinct that disappears over time (with criticism and other outside influences). I, however, never wanted to stop. I went to journalism school, but transferred out. I wrote when I could but never with focus or intention. In the few years before my fall I'd been annoyed at work, missing something more meaningful in my professional life. I fought it because I was doing what should have been a dream job for my education. Plus, it felt like I'd only just paid off my student loans from grad school. I thought I owed it to myself to make something of it. But I had started writing on the side again - here on the blog and with a fledgling freelance career - and I wanted to do more. 

Those first conversations with Amanda Jean - over email and then on the phone like teenage girls - were the start of something amazing. Not only can I still call her a wonderful, dear friend, they started me on a professional path I never imagined and do not want to get off of.

Image from Sunday Morning Quilts by C&T Publishing.

Image from Sunday Morning Quilts by C&T Publishing.

I wrote the book in bed or in a tiny desk stuffed in a closet or at IKEA while taking advantage of the playroom. I learned to work to the soundtrack of PBS Kids. I did indeed take over the dining room table as I made all my quilts in the book. It was messy, chaotic, stressful, and awesome.

The day I truly started working on the book was also the day I started as a stay at home mom, having quit my policy job because our family could no longer survive with both of us working full-time. It also coincided with my husband leaving for more or less 3 months. While writing the book I had two miscarriages as well. I remember sitting in the hospital, binding one of the book quilts while waiting for a D&C.  Let's just say it was a stressful, rocky time for everyone. 

At the same time my Dad was dying. We had tears over the phone, stressful trips to see him and help, then there was me trying to meet my deadline as he was moved to Palliative Care. I still remember the day we met the final deadline and he seeing him look proud of me. He wasn't one for sharing love, but I could feel some that day.  

The book was finished and there was nothing to do but wait for it to come out. Our family life started to smooth out a little. And I even started working on the next book. I got pregnant and this time it stuck. 

Four years ago this month and a little over two years after that fall on the slopes Sunday Morning Quilts was published. Four years ago my son was born. If you are a long time reader here you might remember that we even had a little bet going on which would come first - the baby or the book? For the record, the book arrived at people's doorsteps and shops about a week or so before my little guy did.

As a mother my world blew up with his entrance to the world and our family. He's a delightful, (mostly) boy with more energy than a nuclear bomb. We worried about the age gap between he and the girls (6 and 4 years) but he's shown us that it doesn't matter one lick as he throws himself, full speed ahead into everything. I love him even when his pouting infuriates me or his tantrums last all day. I do wish he would stop talking sometimes, but he is his mother's child...

As a quilter, my world is totally different since Sunday Morning Quilts dropped. I wrote the book for two main reasons. One, I wanted to write a book and both Amanda Jean and I felt we had something to contribute to the market. And two, I wanted to teach and expected the book to be a good springboard to that. I never, ever could have anticipated what my life looks like now. 

Recently, I wrote a list of all the places I've travelled to teach or speak about quilting. Outside of local gigs, I've been to nearly twenty communities. In one year I hit all three oceans that Canada touches. In rooms of ten or over 100 I get to talk about my quilts, my approach to making. I've filmed five online classes too. This blows my mind. And I could totally do more, I want to do more.

Have you seen my other two books? A Month of Sundays came to be because the quilt, Sunday Morning, proved so popular and inspiring. You Inspire Me To Quilt is my most recent, less than a year old, and all about the design process and making quilts for loved ones. These books wouldn't exist without Sunday Morning Quilts because I never would called myself a writer and actually sat down to pitch, write, and develop my voice in quilt books.

Then there is the unexpected benefit of writing books and designing patterns - people make quilts! I say unexpected because it isn't what I went into this for, to have people be inspired enough to make. But wow, that is the best part! To know that your work, whether words or technique or designs, get people sewing is fantastic and now the part that feeds me. It's one thing to buy a book because it is pretty or because you like the looks of a project or two, it is another to be so inspired that you actually get your butt in the seat and sew. That my little books can do that for people rocks my world.

In all honesty, it is that last part that keeps me going. I'm not going to lie, I have rough days. Those days are filled with doubt and I question whether I should be doing this - for my sake, for my family's sake, and whether anyone would notice if I stopped. Then someone sends me an email or I get tagged in a photo of a quilt they made inspired by my work. That old adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery isn't quite true in this case because I am putting the designs out there for you to make, but it still counts in my book. Kind words and flattery will get you everywhere with me! 

So I keep writing, playing with genres. I keep designing, publishing in books and magazines. I definitely keep teaching, always striving to inspire. I certainly wouldn't still be doing it without the support of everyone out there, all you quilters making quilts. I wouldn't be doing any of it without that fateful day on the slopes. 

And now, I have a fancy carbon fibre brace for my knee and I'm back on the slopes with the family, all five of us.

You Inspire Me To Quilt Giveaway

The holiday season is upon us. We are surrounded by so many of the people we love, the people who inspire us to quilt. Share a photo of the person or people in your life who bring you to the sewing table to create. Tell us why too. It  may be your partner, your kid, your grandmother. It might also be someone famous who inspired you or another quilter. Share it all. Tell us, who inspires you to quilt?

Post your photo on Instagram or Twitter, using the hashtag #youinspiremetoquilt. All posts will be entered to win one of these amazing prizes.

Prize 1
A 1-2 hour Skype session with me to discuss quilting. We can workshop an idea you have, take a mini class, or simply just chat. Let me help you make your quilt design dreams a reality.

Prize 2

A copy of You Inspire Me to Quilt, Eco-Pouch set, and Micro-fiber wipes (Donated by C&T Publishing). *US residents only

Prize 3
Good Neighbours fabric Bundle and a Zephyr (Cotton andSteel) bundle (Donated by Connecting Threads)

All posts shared between December 15 and  January 15 will be eligible for prizes. Post and share often! Every post is a chance to win.

If you aren't on Instagram or Twitter, now is the time to sign up! Here is a quick tutorial on Instagram. It is probably the perfect social media for quilters as it is so visual and responsive. Follow me there too! I am @cheryl_arkison.

I can't wait to see all the inspiring people in your lives!

Quilt Local (Weekend Reads)

One of the most common questions I get asked is "Where do you find your inspiration?" I'll admit, it is a frustrating question. Partly, because the answer - everywhere! - seems trite. But mostly because the answer itself frustrates many. So many of us seem to think that inspiration is some magical creature that touches only a select few. Like the Greeks and their Muses, that is comes from something else and not within. Poppycock!

If you open your eyes and your heart to seeing the world around you, if you listen to the people talk and the love you feel, the inspiration is right there. And if you get your butt in the sew it can come to life in a quilt.

Quilt Local, by Heather Jones, is a book that walks the reader through noticing the world around and capturing it in a quilt. It takes you through her thought process on everything from colour, capturing inspiration, designing a quilt, and decision making. For a quilter wondering how it goes from planks on a dock to a quilt, this is it.

Heather is a lovely woman, a quiet and reflective soul. I've known her through the industry for a few years now. She was gracious enough to contribute to You Inspire Me to Quilt. Her quilts are bold, even if their colour schemes are usually more muted. It is her emphasis on line, translated with large scale piecing, that gives her a unique voice in quilt design.

Where Heather is restrained and focused in her palettes, I am all over the place. Neither is better or worse, just different. In many ways I am drawn to her quilts because of this contrast. Only a handful of fabrics, muted colour ways and straightforward constructions. Not my usual more is more mentality when it comes to fabric selection!

In Quilt Local I was particularly drawn to her quilt Indian Hill. I loved the bright colours she used in both versions of the quilt. A difference for her and probably what made it more appealing to me. I also quite liked the angles of the design. What I found interesting is that when I read her construction method I was surprised. It isn't how I would have put the quilt together. Now I'm not saying her way is wrong, not at all. It is more about noticing and remembering that each of us approach a design challenge and pattern making differently, from our own experiences. It is the same with inspiration - we see the world through our own lens and what we find fascinated, another might be bored. Where we see a quilt, someone else just sees a misty mountain. The important thing is to see.

This is one of the final stops on the blog tour for Quilt Local. Check out the other posts for more inspiration and insight.

10/5: Creative Bug
10/6: STC Craft Blog  
10/10: Sew Mama Sew
10/12: Plaid Portico
10/16: Pellon
10/29: Okan Arts
10/30: Kara Sews
11/2: Crimson Tate
11/4: Dainty Time
11/9: Spoonflower
11/11: Aurifil 

A few details about the book. Heather runs through an extensive colour discussion. She also details her approach to design. It really is like sitting with her as she explains a quilt from start to finish. The photography is beautiful. My one issue is that the original inspiration image is not all that large. It is included, as are Heather's sketches, but I would have liked to have seen more of them.

One of my favourite things about the book is that Heather made two versions of each project. That means you see two different colour ways. This makes a huge difference for the reader because we are less likely to get hung up on making that quilt, or dismissing a quilt simply because we don't see the colours. It also shows us the power of fabric selection in quilt making.

My camera and phone are filled with images that may one day become the basis for a quilt. I can't stop seeing the potential. Once you open up you will indeed see that inspiration is everywhere.