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Happy Turkey Day! Today is the US Thanksgiving Day - a national holiday - so we are all off having a good time with families and eating lots of tukey and pumpkin pie. It is a day to relect and be thankful.

I am thankful that we have almost made it through our first year of TQS. Thirteen months ago this was only a twinkle in an eye. The vision of our sponsors (please continue to thank them), Web Guru Bob, Lilo, and Paul have all made this dream a reality. They have all played a HUGE role in making this first year a success. To all who have supported us and to all who helped build this community - THANK YOU!

I am thankful that I survived the year - seriously! It has been a fast ride and the last few months in particular have been overwhelming - but it is all good. I am thankful that I get to spend my time doing what I love. I am thankful for the support of those near and dear to me. I am thankful that the ARJJ directors share a vision and that we work together so well. I am thankful for each TQS member and hope we serve you well.

Even if you do not live in the USA, I would love to hear what you are thankful for today.

P.S. - Okay, some of you did not notice that those tail feathers are the TQS star! 

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Quilters are the best! Meet two ladies I had the privilege of talking to. Also, check out TQS member Clara8 and her quilts on the site. Her work is AWESOME!

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621_houston_3.jpgPart two of the Houston experience - Check out Sally Collin's work! http://www.sallycollins.org/

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Handmade Buttons by Incomparable Buttons 

Just around the corner of the TQS booth in Houston we discovered some amazing handmade buttons created and painted by hand by women in South Africa.  The business, called Incomparable Buttons, was started in 1984 by Jennifer Pascall as a way to employ and support out of work women in the area.  The idea for the button business literally came to her one night while sleeping.

Her first designs were created around the kitchen table.  She freely admits that her initial buttons were a mess.  Eventually she developed a clay mix (slip) that worked.  Early buttons that incorporate traditional African designs and animals are still popular today.  Along with African themed buttons their designs include animals, fruits and vegetables, sea animals as well as simple graphics.

As the company grew Jennifer hired and trained women from the local community in the art of button making.  Most of the women hired had never held a paintbrush in their hand.  Today they are considered masters of their craft. Each woman takes great pride in the work she produces. "The ladies sense of belonging within the company and skills as crafters not only gives them tremendous pleasure but also provides them with economic empowerment and has uplifted all their families."

Each button is made using a slip that contains crushed stone.  This makes the button extremely hard and machine washable.  They do not recommend dry cleaning.  The buttons, once created, are dried outside in the sun, and then fired for 24 hours in a kiln.  You might want to consider some of these unique buttons for your next embellishment project.  To learn more about Incomparable Buttons and to read about some of the artists click here.

 

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Now that Ricky is back safe and sound (although exhausted I am sure!), it's time to get back to the Houston Quilt Festival. First stop, some of the winning quilts. They were FABULOUS - in fact ALL the quilts were winners in my book!

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A boat signifies a journey. It takes someone away, and brings them back. It is the perfect photo to express my coming and going to Japan. (Author Photo)

Packing my bags in the quiet morning of my last day I was playing songs from my laptop. A particular song came on and the music gently swept over me. I began reflecting on my trip - how it is coming to a close - and about how blessed I am. My eyes welled up and I felt the need to write a blog to you and share with you my thoughts.

I guess this trip could be summarized by what happened at the end of class yesterday. These students took a Rhapsody Design class and had not attended any of my previous events in Japan - so it was a one-day deal for them. But for Markio and I it was the closing of a wonderful chapter. As I bid the class farewell, Mariko began to tear. As my translator, this was difficult. I could only speak through her. Of course, being a big baby myself, I begin tearing up too. We managed to say the farewell, but I was reminded how beautiful and precious life is. I'm happy to see that others a world away share the same joys, passions, as well as heartaches as I do.

Many of the students commented that my class offered lessons in life as well as quilting. This is one of my goals. But in the end, I am the one who is blessed. I learn, I become inspired, I find a new light and a spark to keep my soul alive.

At each stop along the way I would play my flute. I would play just a simple song and tell everyone it was a song about peace - which it was. This morning as I close my bags, bulging with gifts presented to me from people I only briefly met, I leave Japan with a heart richer than it was before I came here.

To Mariko - I came to love you. You are an amazing lady and a gentle soul. Thank you for taking such good care of me. I will remember you forever.

So, It was music that moved me to write this. I was playing an album by William Joseph - a pianist - the album is titled Within. I didn't know the name of the song that caused me to be reflective, so I took a look - it was called Homeward Bound - how appropriate! You can take a listen to it on iTunes. The entire album is wonderful, but this particular song was perfect this morning.

I'll admit, I currently have streams of tears flowing down my cheeks, but they are good tears. These tears tell me that I am still alive - that I have many who love me. The tears flow for the farewell I feel in my heart and they flow for the homecoming that I will soon have with those who love me. I hope my words will remind you of how rich your life is and that forever we will be connected to each other by all the threads in our magnificent worldwide patchwork quilt of love.

Farewell Japan - I will miss you!

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How many times do you glance down at the floor while walking through a building?  During our stay in Houston we must have walked across this lobby floor hundreds of times without giving it a thought.  On our last morning we snapped this photo.  What a great idea for a quilt!  Can you just imagine this done in applique'? What a stunner that would be.  Do you have any quilts that have been inspired by floors, walls, or other architecture? 

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Photo: Learning the proper way to turn the bowl in a tea ceremony.

My last tour stop is Fukuoka. This area is the closest to Korea and China so it was essentially the gateway to Japan during the older trading days. It is a large city and I was quite amazed at the architecture and public art.

Mariko and I met up with Chiziko (a full-time quilt teacher and recent award winner in Yokohama) for a visit to shrine, Dazaifu Tenmangu. Shrines are created to honor an ancestor. This particular shine is for those wishing blessings on education and learning, so many students will visit here when they want to pass a test.

Later in the day Keiko Goke met up with us for dinner. It was fortunate that she already had plans to teach in Fukuoka so we were able to be together one last time. She truly is an amazing artist and we seem to share a common creative thread.

This video shows me trying a treat that is made with sweet bean paste wrapped in a rice pastry and roasted. I tried cuttlefish, which was very very good but I did not get that on video. The foods that seemed odd to me tasted okay - or at least had a taste that I could come to like. The entire experience has been rewarding and fun.

Final thoughts? Japan is expensive, the culture is rich, the technology is smart, the hospitality (hotels, restaurants) is outstanding, and the people honest, caring, and giving. My thanks to Bernina of Japan for arranging the trip and to Mariko for being my interpreter and becoming my friend.

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The day has finally arrived. The Quilt Show Shoppe is having its Grand Opening. In celebration everyone shopping at the Shoppe from November 12-25, 2007 will receive an automatic 10% discount off all purchases. After November 26, 2007 all Star Members will always receive a 5% discount on all purchases. Discounts do not apply to subscription purchases. Visit the Shoppe and you will find patterns, books, notions as well as many of the products we presented over the last year in our show episodes. We also carry the limited edition TQS pins.

If you are a shop owner and would like to partner with us we would love to hear from you. We want to be your biggest supporter. Just enter click on our contact page and we will inform you prior to a show airing what items will be presented on that particular episode. This will allow you time to have your shop stocked.

For those of you around the world who do not have easy access to quilt shops or are otherwise stranded when you see a product mentioned on the show that is not available locally, you will find what you want right here with us online. Click here to enter the Shoppe. We will ship worldwide.

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In just two more weeks the final episode of Series One will post. This show is entirely shot on location and will honor someone who was a pioneer during the recent renaissance of quilting. We are thrilled to have documented the life and work of this person. Some of you are making guesses on the forum as to the identity of this mystry legend. All will be revealed in time - but mark your calendars and be among the first to see who we are honoring as our first Quilt Legend. This show will post on November 26th.

Speaking of the last episode, have you renewed your membership for Series Two which begins in January? All Star Members for Series One will be able to watch Series One until it is gone, but to see Series Two you have to purchase that series. We are offering a special if you purchase the combo of Series Two and Series Three. Next year we are doing TWO series, or 26 shows for 2008 - so you'll get new shows more often (like every two weeks!).

As the holidays approach you might want to consider purchasing a gift subscription for a friend. You can do this as well. The gift subscription option is now available. Thanks for making our first year at TQS so successful!



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