Sunday was yet another beautiful day when Norma and I set out on our drive to Wisconsin. We drove past traditional wooden farmsteads, red barns, grain silos and fields of corn and beans that were almost dry enough for harvest. There were huge pumpkins for sale at the side of the road. We stopped off in Conrad, Iowa to visit Heidi Kaisand’s new retreat and quilt shop, “Hens & Chicks”. She has converted an old general store and filled it with antique presses on which to display her fabrics. She still had a lot to do to get it ready for her grand opening but it will be a lovely place when it is complete.
We stopped for lunch at the Wisconsin state line for a lunch buffet. There was a strange jello confection in amongst the cold salad bar that I decided to avoid but I was impressed by the decor in the ladies loo that was decorated like horse stalls. The Wisconsin countryside is more like parts of England with rolling hills and smaller farms. The leaves on the trees were just turning to rich autumn colours. Cedarburg is a charming town with neatly mown lawns, pretty houses with porches and tree lined streets. We barely managed to stay awake until 9pm that evening and it was most comforting to sleep under a real quilt after a week in a hotel.
On Monday morning we arrived at the Wisconsin Museum of Quilts and Fiber Arts which is sited in renovated 1850’s barn with several other smaller farm buildings all awaiting their turn for conservation. I made myself useful by helping to dismantle the previous exhibit: there was a great selection of quilts on the walls and on an antique bed, crochet, macramé, knitting, baskets, vintage linens, and wool coverlets from Pennsylvania. There was also a Baltimore quilt from Mary Koval’s collection a WW2 wedding dress made from a parachute and a well stocked gift shop. The barn provides a perfect setting for such a diverse collection of textiles and it has large rooms available in the basement for classes, lectures and functions.
Norma and I took the carpet store by surprise when we asked if they had a remnant suitable for the yurt. I bought 50 samples at 25 cents each. We dropped the Des Moines butterfly chair off at the Goodwill Store near Port Washington and had a glimpse of Lake Michigan, shining flat calm on yet another beautiful autumn day.
Breakfast on Tuesday morning was fun when Norma and I met Luella for breakfast at George Webb’s Diner. A group of old timers sat at the long counter; I ordered sunnysideup fried eggs with hash-browns and an endless supply of coffee. I fulfilled a lifelong ambition to shop in a “Piggly Wiggly” grocery store; these are usually found in The South but there is also a small chain of them in Wisconsin. It was a lovely small supermarket so I bought some autumn coloured M&M’s and a canvas shopping bag with the legendary pig printed on the side.
There was a big team of helpers to get the yurt frame up in the centre of the barn which was good as wooden floors are always a bit of a challenge. Even the reporter from Ozaukee County News Graphic helped to attach the roof in between taking photos. The rest of the day was spent tidying up and sorting out a publicity poster. Norma and I visited Luella’s house which is full of interesting antique collections of quilts and kitchenware. Our reward for working so hard was to have a burger & fries supper at Culver’s, followed by ice-cream topped with pecans and butterscotch sauce shared three ways!
Wednesday at the museum involved making calls to the UPS depot, demanding why they had decided to split up the shipment from APQS of a longarm machine for teaching and demonstrations. They refused to admit that they had mistyped a label so we ended up driving to Milwaukee to collect the final box. There was a side trip to Joann’s to get some gold lame type fabrics for one of my classes. I wish we had places like that in the UK… the selection of fake fur, vinyl and dress fabrics is amazing and I think I could have such fun with some of that. We toured along Lakeshore Drive in Milwaukee which is an exclusive area of very fancy mansions close to Lake Michigan. Joggers, dog walkers and Harley Davidson bikers were making the most of the weather on the lakeside, making it all look like an idyllic place to live. I have been reliably informed that this weather could break at any time and temperatures could plummet any day. We got the APQS Lenni all set up for classes without the help of a paper manual and learnt that referring to PDF instructions by phone and using borrowed tools is not easy… Terri Kirchner, the President of WMQFA, arrived back from New York where she had been on a tour with a group of quilters. She is one of the original Yurt “Stunt Quilters”. She had plenty of correspondence to catch up with during the day and in the evening I moved my out of Norma’s house with my expanding luggage to stay with Terri for the rest of my stay.
I worked on the longarm on Thursday morning then had a jaunt out to buy some prewound bobbins and look in the tempting window of the toffee-apple shop. I accompanied Terri on a wild goose chase to collect a donation of fabric from the estate of a deceased quilter. There were many rubbish bags full of musty smelling fabric awaiting collection on the front lawn. The first warning signs were people wearing Tyvek suits and respirator masks. The hoarder’s family called to demand that the clearance company did not give away the fabric in case it might be valuable. Terri was most relieved at that decision, particularly after being informed that the original elderly house owner had died 6 years ago; her infirm son then moved in before kicking the bucket himself on a small patch of rotting carpet. Five enormous containers had already been filled with junk for the dump. We returned to the Museum for me to give an evening talk to the volunteers about the Yurt so that they would know how to explain it all to visitors. Afterwards there was coffee with the sweetest and stickiest frosted carrot cake that I have ever tasted – it actually gave me a bit of a headache!