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I Love Downloads!

I know many of my buddies are still in favor of books they can hold...  but I absolutely LOVE downloads!!  For one thing, I can have them with me wherever I go... I either put a link in my bookmarks or (if it's a document) I put it into my dropbox -- and I can look at it on any computer, including my smartphone!  

Two of my favorite mags are available for download absolutely FREE!!  I love that!! 

Through the Needle ONLINE      Asian Fabrics Magazine

I love that I can have the magazine with me when I go shopping...  in case I find the PERFECT fabric and I want to now how much I need..  you know the deal, the pattern calls for 2/3 yard but I know that I'll need 2 yards "just in case"...  

I also love putting recipes on my phone -- or in my dropbox!  On those rare occasions when I'm inspired to cook, it's great to have the recipe where I can get to it while I'm at the store or the farmer's market.  

What are some of YOUR favorite downloadable magazines??  How do you use technology to help fuel your creative passion?  Let's chat about that!



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Quilting Therapy and Stress Relief

All of us have had one of those weeks where everything just seems to go wrong and the world is out to get you. That is the kind of week I have had.

In the midst of all the chaos of school, running a huge artist outreach program for work, and trying to get home work done (not to mention these Bloomington allergies are killing me!) I realized that I was supposed to go into Shiisa Quilts and work today.  As soon as I walked inside the door and caught up on everyone’s week, I realized what a therapeutic place this place is to me.

As soon as I started quilting I began to think about quilting not only as a creative outlet, but as a therapeutic outlet and what there is out there about the topic.  I decided to dive into some blogs and checkout what other people are saying about quilting and using it as a type of therapy.  Many people use a hobby as a type of personal therapy, but sometimes I find even my hobbies stress me out because I end up making something for someone else or I am trying to master a new technique or I get bored with a project. Because of this, I don’t always turn to quilting as my number one way to wind down after a bad day.

One blog suggested working on very simple projects, such as making lots of basic 4 patch blocks with scraps.  I decided to take this suggestion and give it a shot for the rest of the week. I set up my sewing machine on my 2x4 ft kitchen table permanently for the week. As soon as I came home every day I sat down and worked on a jelly roll quilt. Just sewing straight lines and not doing anything difficult turned out to be very nice. It was so surprising how quickly I was able to release my stress after doing this when I came home.  After a little more research I found a great review from a doctor from a website about the health benifits of quilting called Quilt Review.  I do not know how proven some of these claims are, although there has been a lot of research about the health benefits of quilting. Three of the points really touched me and I hope they can bring some calming, therapeutic thoughts to your quilting this week like they did for me.

“Quilting gives you the time and space to think your own thoughts, to dream your own dreams, and to plan your life.

The calming rhythms of quilt making allow us to process whatever challenges we face and to listen for that still, quiet voice that brings compassion and guidance.

Quilting is about love and relationship. It is life-affirming and life-giving.” –Susan Delaney Mech, M.D.


Sarah E. Lempke

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IHQS 2012 in the eyes of a 10 year old quilt addict

I have just had the most amazing weekend! I helped my Granny and the other Board Members of the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show. My favorite quilt store, Shiisa Quilts, was one of the sponsors of the show. On Saturday I visited with Alice and Lisa who work for Jan and had set up a booth there.
Jan, who owns Shiisa Quilts asked me to pick some of my favorite quilts and  to tell you why I like them.
My favorite quilt was "Color Wheel" by Kathy McNeill. I liked that is has so many different colors in it and that it shows a beautiful picture. The flowers and the plants and the wheel and stones look so realistic. The hot air balloons in the background is a little extra touch that makes it more interesting. When you look closely you can actually see colors in the water wheel paddles. This quilt reminds me of summer which is one of my favorite seasons.
My second favorite one is called "Biofuel: Black Cottonwood" by Judy Pleiss. I love how it is not a traditional quilt. The colors work so well together. The leaves look so real. Overall the quilt is just beautful!
My third favorite quilt is called "Color Play" by Lynn Burch. This pinwheel quilt is amazing! I like how she used plain fabric with little pattern and it turns out sparkling. I normally like nontraditional quilts. The bars on the sides of this quilt take it from being a traditional pin wheel to an unexpected work of art. However, people who like traditional quilts should still like this beautiful quilt.
Last but not least of my picks is "Bay Bridge Series" by Nancy S. Brown. This realistic quilt caught my eye because I LOVE animals. The green and blue behind the animals make the animals themselves stand out. The black sashing helps bring it out even more. She used completely different animals but they still look good together. The colors of the animals complement one another and look so real. Since this is called a "series" I wonder what the other quilts in the series may look like. I love the bold colors of these quilts which is why I like Shiisa Quilts so much--this is the kind of fabric you can find there!
My First Official Class I Have Ever Taken:

I just have to tell you about my first "official" class I have ever taken--normally my Granny just helps me learn. I took my first class this weekend with Sally Collins. It was called "Pieced Baskets." I learned so much especially how to improve my cutting, stitiching, and color selection. Sally is all about sewing small things. But what I learned you can do with any size of work. She taught me so many wonderful things. I think it is important to take a class like this while I am still learning. I can now use skills that I learned in her class to become a better sewer. If you ever get a chance, don't pass up one of her classes. It's not about how small, it's how to improve your skills for whatever size you want to sew. She is one of the best teachers you can find.
Now I'm going to look at the class schedule at Shiisa Quilts and see which class I can take there.  My Granny says that even good quilters can learn something from a class and she has loved each and every one she has taken at Shiisa Quilts. Check out their class schedule.  It's fun and who wouldn't want to go see and touch all the beautiful fabrics that Jan offers at Shiisa Quilts.
Gotta go, time to sew,
Elaine (age 10)


Bloomington Modern Quilt Guild

 As an undergraduate Indiana University business student, I have made it my job to procrastinate from studying and doing homework.  Because of this, I have found myself on several occasions wishing I had a sewing machine and friends to quilt with here in Bloomington.  Thanks to my mom who introduced me to quilting, I find myself day dreaming about this all the time.  Over winter break I was bored, and my mother persuaded me to make a quilt of which I got to pick the fabric.  After yards of zebra print fabric and a couple cutting mistakes later, I made my first quilt.   It was sent to a NICU in Chicago along with a bunch of other quilts my mom has made.  Since then, I have had an urge to get my hands on more fabric and make another quilt to donate.  However, there have been several problems with this: 1. No sewing machine 2. No friends who quilt 3. No place to quilt.  So, after running through those three problems and not really knowing how I was going to solve them, I told my friend Kari I was starting a quilting club, and she was intrigued by the idea.  Asking me a bunch of question about how I was going about doing this, I had no answers and was not very sure myself. 

This idea of starting a quilting club was twirling around in my head for a couple weeks with no answers.  After discovering Shiisa Quilts in the beginning of January, I went on the website to see if I could talk to the ladies there and get some ideas to get this going.  That is when I discovered a blog that Sarah Lempke, an employee at Shiisa Quilts, wrote.  She wrote about being an IU Grad student who did not have anywhere to quilt until she found Shiisa Quilts.  I emailed Janet asking if I could chat with Sarah about this idea.  We met a couple weeks ago and with a lot of discussion and help from Janet we decided to start a Modern Quilt Guild in Bloomington. 

Our first meeting will be on March 23rd at Shiisa Quilts at 2pm.Our first project is to make pillow cases that will be donated to pediatrics at the Bloomington Hospital.  For more information visit the calendar on or email Kelly at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




Fabric Shopping with Granny

Hi, my name is Elaine Hilton. I am 10 years old and  I have been sewing since I was five. I just came home from my favorite quilt store, Shiisa Quilts, in Bloomington, IN.    Elaine



My Granny took me there to shop for fabric for some projects I’m working on. My first project is a kaleidoscope quilt.

You won’t believe how beautiful my feature fabric is. It has giant Japanese Chrysanthemum flowers in bright shades of pink, green, red, purple, an orange.

Once I selected my feature fabric that I LOVE so much I started pulling bolts of fabric off the shelves until I found the perfect ones for sashing strips! I selected a kind of fabric called Fizz in shades of purple, red, and green.

My Granny’s friend, Rhonda, who works at the quilt store showed me how to look at the side of the bolt to see how it would look cut into strips. I think that’s a good tip to know.

It is so much fun to look at all the beautiful fabric that Jan has at Shiisa Quilts! But now it’s time to go… I gotta sew!



Finding Time to Sew

The topic that has been on my mind all week is how the heck I am going to find time to sew!? I am just swamped with school and all my jobs that I am desperately trying to finish this quilt and cannot find time to sew.  Part of the reason of why it is hard for me to find time is because my schedule only allows for small bits of free time and by the time I get home at night it is already 10pm and I can barely keep my eyes open.  For me to sew at any time, I have to pull out all of my stuff and set everything up. Once all this set-up is done, in my tiny studio apartment, it looks like the quilt exploded all over the place.  So by the time I get situated and sitting at my machine I have run out of free time and I have to run off to my next commitment. 

Being the problem solver that I am, I thought I should reach out to the Shiisa Quilts staff and customers for advice with this issue.  Boy did I get some great answers and people gave me very great advice for all stages of my life!

Other college students said that they find time to sew on school breaks.  Taking advantage of time off to do something fun and productive is very rewarding.  They also suggested finding a weekend afternoon once a month or every other week dedicated to sewing.  As for the small amount of space we all have, organization is key.  Highly organizing all sewing materials in storage containers and labels makes set up much easier and quicker. 

Young parents such as Ashley Allswede and Kathleen Plummer said they sew as soon as the kids go to sleep at night.  Ashley doesn’t have a lot of space and has to set up every time she wants to sew too.  Ashley and Kathleen suggested blocking out sections of the project and adjusting it to the time you have.  Ashley always tries to get to a stopping place so that she doesn’t have to rework anything.  She also takes advantage of down time when the kids are watching a movie to work on any hand sewing that needs to be done.  Kathleen uses her guest room as her sewing room, pictured aboveKathleen's Sewing/Guest Room.  This saves so much time and only you have to pack up your project when you have guests!  Kathleen also suggested doing projects that have a quick turnaround to stay motivated.

For people like Lisa Dodson, Terry Pate, and Pat Surra all of their kids have left the nest and have dedicated areas for their sewing projects.  Lisa and Terri want to take over the whole house, and Pat has taken over her whole basement!  If this is what I get to look forward to, I can’t wait! Ha! Lisa likes to wake up early and sew instead of working at night, Terri likes to sew in small amounts of time switching back and forth from reading to sewing, and Pat likes to sew morning, noon, and night (quite literally). 

So while sewing can be a catch 22 for people who don’t have the space and time, organization and planning are the solutions.  As for finding time, well, let me know when you find out how to add 3 more hours in a day, we would all love to know!  Leah Day gave some suggestions on how to find time to sew in her blog post Finding Time to Quilt.

Please comment and let me know  your suggestions on finding time to quilt and sew!

Sarah E. Lempke


How Did This Happen, Again?

When I walked into Shiisa Quilts for the first time, I was only in 4th grade.  I had begged for a sewing machine at Christmastime and finally got one.  My mother, Kathleen, also a now-avid sewist, and I had been seeking the right teacher -- and at Shiisa Quilts, that's what we received.

My first class was making a simple pillowcase.  Just in that class, my mother and I came a long way from sewing doll dresses with no arm holes! (True story.)  I smoothly ran the machine, and with help from my quilting friend, Alice, I made an Africa-themed pillowcase.  It was an easy project, just enough to make my mother and me produce a big batch for our cousins and friends.


Here's some pics of me at the Pillowcase Party!































Here I am showing off my Magic Christmas Stocking!  I got to use Chizimi Shrinking Thread













I loved the Quilting Mini-Retreat during the winter break from school!  




Alice helped me lay out the rows of my tumbler block quilt.











I couldn't have dreamed that in the year since I got my sewing machine, I would be making a quilt, participating in Groovy Girls (and 1 guy), and just be where I am today - so I have one thing to say:  

Thank you Shiisa Quilts!


Paper-Piecing and Jellyrolls

This past week has been very busy here at Shiisa Quilts.  We finished up another class of Free Motion Quilting-Basics and Beyond, the Shiisa Quilts Stitch Lounge, Valentine Make and Take Paper Piecing, and the Superbowl Jellyroll Race.  It has been a quilting educational whirlwind for everyone! 

I was so sad that the FMQ class has ended. Alice and Lisa have taught me so much and left me feeling so inspired.  I can honestly say I am now a FMQ addict. With some additional encouragement in the Stitch Lounge, I hope to finish the quilt that I made in the class by next week.  This is the first time I have ever been sad to be done with a quilt because I have loved making it so much.  As I will be starting a new project soon, I can’t wait to be done with the piecing and start quilting! 

While you can see that I am in love with FMQ, let’s just say I learned a new technique in quilting that I did not pick up as easily: Paper-Piecing.  The class was excellent and Bev was wonderful and patient, but as easily as I learned FMQ, I thought I would be able to pick up paper piecing quickly. The examples Bev brought in were amazing; the points were perfect and made out of tons of tiny pieces.   Yes, the concept of paper piecing is quite simple, sew on the lines of the paper in the right order, but for some reason it seemed like such a backward process for me.    After practicing it a bit more and ripping out some very tiny seems I finally caught on.  All the ladies in the class were beginners too so it was nice to all be in the same boat. Carol Doak’s 50 Little Paper-Pieced Blocks is an excellent book and all of us couldn’t stop looking through it.  The blocks are fun and easy to do and are great to make for holiday cards.  By the end of it I felt more accomplished and relieved to have my project looking good after two hours than I ever have for any class.  I hope Ryan, my boyfriend, loves his Valentine. Smile

The week ended with the most fantastic Superbowl party I have ever been too.  You think this was a baking contest, think again! On Superbowl Sunday, Shiisa Quilts held their annual Superbowl party.  This year, Jan decided to add a competition into the party mix by hosting a Jellyroll quilt race.  The competitors turned 1,040 linear yards of fabric into a quilt!  The Jellyroll race was everything I could have hoped it to have been.  It was competitive, loud, and most of all FUN!  All three ladies were a joy to be with and Jan had a play by play of the competition on Facebook.   Even though she had a downfall in the last quarter by accidentally sewing her quilt into a tube, Kathleen was our winner!

 Thank you to everyone that either took a class with me or taught a class that I was in this week.  It was so much fun and I learned so much from all of you!


The Final Jellyroll Quilts


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Letting My Hair Down....with FMQ

FMQ Basics and Beyond 2nd ClassI know you have been hearing a lot about Free Motion Quilting (FMQ) from us. You are probably thinking, ok ladies; enough with the free motion this, free motion that.  Trust me, you need to try this. 

The first class I am taking here at Shiisa Quilts is Lisa and Alice’s FMQ Basics and Beyond.  The ladies informed me that even though I am a beginner, I could easily make a quilt like their sample in the store.   I thought they were crazy, completely nuts.  This sample was the most intricate, beautiful hand quilting I had ever seen.  There was no way this is going to happen. 

The first thing Lisa said in the class is, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it” –Salvador Dali.  I thought to my perfectionist/over-achiever self; “ this is going to be the most painful class ever, worse than Honors Finance.”   After Lisa’s pep talk I started to get more confident, thinking, “Ok, I can do this, it is going to look just as good as the samples.  They are going to be astonished with my prodigy FMQ skills, that I never knew I had.” 

So I sat down with my practice sandwich, and yup, all that confidence came crashing down.  I tried not to show it, but I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t a quilting prodigy. O, well, maybe another hidden talent will show up another day.  I began to go through the paces. I didn’t realize that you had to coordinate the speed of the pedal with the movement of the fabric! This was going to be much harder than I thought.

I decided to just dive in on my first square.  I chose to use a stencil to draw a big pattern on the square and would free hand the stuff in the middle and the outsides.  I found tracing to be a whole different ball game than just doing it by free hand.  It took some while to get used to, but it didn’t turn out too bad!  For the second square I started to get a little gutsier. I began to loosen up and just let things happen. It was starting to become fun!

I am now on my fourth square, and I am going to let you in on a little secret: I know it isn’t perfect, but I don’t care!  This is my very first time to ever FMQ, so how could I really expect it to be perfect?  I am having so much more fun knowing that it doesn’t matter. I have come up with more creative designs, my squares are looking better and better, and I feel like I am having a fun break from every other demanding perfectionist aspect of my life.  My advice for the week is to try it. Just try FMQ.  If it’s not perfect, that’s ok! Relax, enjoy yourself, and let the creativity flow!

Sarah Lempke


Not Really an Addict.... Yet

I have a confession to make....    I gave up free-motion quilting a number of years ago because I just never liked what I did (and, to be honest, I hadn't done much).  I had no idea WHAT to do, and not much idea how to do it.  And the couple of quilts that I did really looked like I had no idea what to do or how to do it!  When I got back to the states and discovered that Bloomington has a couple of "knock your socks off" long-arm quilters, I honed my "quilt by check" skills and found that I was always happy with the results.  I also have to admit that, by the time I get to borders, I'm soooo ready to move on to the next project, that the thought of quilting something is just not something that thrills me...  

Last fall, Lisa and Alice convinced me that we should offer a Free Motion Quilting:  Basics and Beyond Class.  It's been incredibly popular, and their students leave the class empowered to quilt!  I haven't actually taken the class yet, but I think I just may steal a seat in their upcoming class if there's still room.  So what has inspired this change of heart?  

One of my FaceBook friends and blogger buddies has organized the 2012 Free Motion Quilt Challenge via her SewCalGal blog, and we decided that it would be a perfect opportunity for us to offer a quilt-along with that challenge...  so at Shiisa Quilts, we have the Free-Motion Quilting Addicts Support Group - and we'll be quilting along with the challenge...  and yes, I personally have taken the challenge!!  

If you live under a rock and haven't heard about the challenge yet, you really should check it out.  I think it's going to be fun -- and educational!!  Each month a different FMQ expert will post a tutorial and then we're supposed to post a photo of our work on that... 

This month our expert is Frances Moore.  When I watched her video tutorial, I thought, "I can do that!!"  Now...  please understand that I'm not, and never have been, a doodler...  I can't draw...  I can't paint...  and I just don't doodle...  so just the idea of trying the leaf design with pen and paper was intimidating...  but it really looked so easy!!  And... it was!  And I actually liked what I drew...   

So last night I had a few minutes at the shop and I sat down with a small quilt sandwich (too small... bad idea!) and I started to stitch...  but I didn't take the time to get my gloves, and really it wasn't much fun and looked awful.  I knew better than to start with such poor preparation... so I just stopped.  I didn't photograph that sample!  No need for historical documentation of ugliness, you know??

This afternoon, I made a FQ-sized sandwich...  got my gloves...  got some thread that actually coordinated with my fabric...  and began...  


Not bad for my first practice session, I think!!  And good enough that I feel inspired to spend a little time with it on a regular basis, for sure!  

So, thanks SewCalGal...  and Frances... and Lisa!!  I don't think my favorite long-arm quilters need to worry too much about not having my quilts in their queues, but this really does make me believe that I can be successful at this!  YAY!!  

I promise that I'll keep you posted...  





A New Perspective at Shiisa Quilts

Sarah Lempke's QuiltWhen most people my age ask me what I like to do for fun, they are often dumbfounded when I say I like to quilt. Let’s be honest, it’s not a typical answer a 22 year old graduate student would give.  Some people shrug it off and think I am strange, most people find it very interesting, and surprisingly my boyfriend thought it was cool. 

A few years ago I decided to take a quilting class to keep busy. I was in a new place and had recently lost two friends so I needed something to occupy my time. I caught on very quickly and just loved it, but it wasn’t just the quilting that I loved, it was the quilting family that came with it.

After being accepted into the Master of Arts Administration program here at IU, I started to explore around town.  I was looking to get back into quilting and found Shiisa Quilts.  Let’s just say I was welcomed into this new quilting family with open arms.  These ladies were awesome; crazy, funny, creative, and caring.  They were so helpful with my project that I found myself stopping by just to hang out.  That is when Janet had an idea….

This is my first official week working at Shiisa Quilts. Janet thought she could use some of event planning skills and arts administration knowledge in the shop.  While yesterday was my first day, I have learned more about quilting in 1 day than I ever thought I would.  Did you know that there is glitter thread!?? Did you know how many classes Shiisa offers per month!? It is crazy how much these ladies do! My project list after just one day will keep me busy for years.  They also already have me sewing samples for the shop, which is kind of scary, considering I have only ever made 2, and I repeat 2, quilts in my life!

So, you will be hearing a lot from me over the next year. I hope I can bring a fresh prospective on quilting here at Shiisa Quilts and keep you up to date on all of the cool things going on here at the shop and in the quilting world.  If you are a beginner like me, don’t be scared, these ladies know how to teach and lead you in the right direction.  If you are well-season pro at quilting, you will be in euphoria; I guarantee you will learn something new every time you visit the store. 


Sarah E. Lempke

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