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Dana planning a project. Photo by Ralph Jones, circa 1960s.

If you're reading this blog, there's a good chance you self-identify as a maker. If like me, your soul demands you sew, quilt, stitch, write, draw, craft, knit, paint — make something you can hold in your hands — then you are likely planning your next project or projects even as you finish a current one. If this sounds like you, consider signing up for my Finding Your Design Sense class, which will begin April 20. I first taught this five-month intensive class last fall. I enjoyed it so much, I've scheduled it again this spring and summer.

It will meet the third Thursdays of each month from April to August from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Mountain Standard Time (noon-3 p.m. Eastern, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Central and 9 a.m.-noon Pacific).

In this class, you'll learn about line, shape, color, texture, value and more. You'll learn where to find inspiration from nature to architecture, from life to the art world. You'll develop a design practice incorporating such things as sketching, working from thumbnails, journaling, photography, exercise, painting, and especially play, lots of play. You can schedule one-on-one phone calls and Zoom sessions with me between classes. We can also "talk" through email. Over the course of the five months, you will uncover and develop your unique design sense.

There are just 10 seats in this class so register now.

Rest area along Interstate 80 near Exit 271 in Iowa. Photo by Dana Jones.

I-80 Rest Area Shares Story of Quilts & Underground Railroad

Driving east from DesMoines, Iowa, to northern Illinois, I remembered there is a rest area a that features the story of quilts used along the Underground Railroad. I couldn't quite place it so decided to stop at each rest area until I found it. Success!

Signage at the site tells how residents of Cedar County, Iowa, participated in helping African Americans to freedom, including the role local Quakers and the county's Chicago Northwestern Railroad agent played in smuggling folks onto trains bound for Chicago.

Check out some of the blocks featured in tile at the rest area.

Quilt blocks in the walls and floors of the Rest Area, inside and out, are crafted in tile. Photos by Dana Jones.

A mural inside the rest area features a number of quilt blocks, some similar to those elsewhere in and around the building and some unique to the mural. Photo by Dana Jones.

Looking back across the Mississippi River from Illinois into Iowa along Interstate 80. Photo by Dana Jones.

The Muddy Mississippi, Long and Wide

It was overcast, cold and damp as I crossed the Mississippi River into my home state of Illinois along Interstate 80 near Davenport, Iowa. This mighty stream that divides our nation into West and East awes me each time I cross it. I know that a bit farther south, it will get muddier as the Missouri feeds into it. This river is the stuff of Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn and Jim; of rafts and steamboats with paddles. My grandfather loved Mark Twain so filled my imagination with his renditions of Twain's stories, stories that came to life every time my family crossed the river to visit him and my grandmother in Northeast Missouri.

Despite the chill, I stopped at the visitor center just into Illinois so I could breathe deeply of late winter/early spring in the Midwest. I stopped to gaze on the palette of subtle brown and gold grasses, almost imperceptible greens and rusts, dark black topsoil that is some of the richest in the world, a gray-blue sky, scattered remnants of a recent snowfall. For many, Illinois is a flat expanse of corn and soy fields that appear lifeless this time of year. This is a palette many call dull. This is the palette that is deepest in my being. This is the palette of the prairie in which I played as a child. This is not the stunning vista of my adopted Colorado. It is the terrain of my beginnings. I love it in a way that's hard to explain.

At left, statue of Abraham Lincoln in Propheter Park in Sterling, Illinois. Photos by Dana Jones.

Mr. Lincoln, Pride of Illinois, Remembered in Sterling

Illinoisans are rightly proud of the state's most famous son, Abraham Lincoln. Wander Illinois and you'll encounter tributes to him. That's what I did when I decided to head off the interstate into Sterling, Illinois. I made the side trip in honor of my Colorado friend Jean Walsh who grew up in the Rock River town. I noticed a sign that pointed the way to the "Lincoln Statue" so I headed that way.

The Sterling-Rock Falls Historical Society erected this statue of a young-looking Lincoln in 2006 to mark 150 years since Lincoln spoke in Sterling in support of John C. Fremont's 1856 bid for U.S. President. This is among the most appealing statues of Lincoln I've seen, and having grown up visiting Lincoln sites in my home state, I've seen quite a few.

Northwest Suburban

Quilters Guild, Here I Come

I'm in northern Illinois to speak to the Northwest Suburban Quilters Guild in Rolling Meadows later this week. Topic: The International Honor Quilt: Women Remembering Women. What could be more perfect for Women's History Month?

I'm looking forward to meeting yet another great community of quilters.

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"Warp Speed," 52" x 52" designed and pieced by Dana Jones, quilted by Rita Meyerhoff.

Packing for two weeks of teaching and speaking in Illinois proved a challenge as I'm taking a sewing table to my sister who has just started quilting. It filled a lot of space in my car. Everything I need to teach, speak and stitch over the next few weeks had to be sandwiched in around it. I don't think I can squeeze in even another yard of fabric so no quilt shop stops for now. I brought along my latest quilt, "Warp Speed." I need to bind it while on the road because I must deliver it to Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum as soon as I'm home later this month. It was accepted for the museum's upcoming exhibition, Logs on a Roll/Log Cabin Quilts, which open mid-April.

I was the one on a roll today, logging 723 miles from my Colorado home to Des Moines, Iowa. I stopped briefly in Akron, Colorado, to admire a colorful windmill, pictured at left. I stoped to fasten the seat belt around the stuff in the packed front seat when the weight sensor decided someone must be sitting there. A bin of food and a cooler got safely locked in to stop the beeping.

I'd planned to drive interstate highways for speed but grew bored around Fort Morgan, Colorado. I left I-76 for U.S. Highway 34 through northeast Colorado into Nebraska. I'm always fascinated by that part of my state and surrounding states, which are dry-land farming territory, aka, Dust Bowl country. I was reminded of Nebraska's tourism slogan, which I love: "Nebraska: Honestly, It's Not for Everyone."

An historical marker along Highway 34 told me know I was traveling along the Old Texas Ogallala Cattle Trail.

Critter sightings today included a sizable gathering of elk close to my home and pronghorn in eastern Colorado.

If you've taken my Demystifying Design for Foundation Paper Piecing class, watch tomorrow night for an email with links for this week's Demystifiers Club meetings. It's been a long day, so I'm heading to bed. I want to be fresh for the rest of my drive to northern Illinois.

I'll be blogging as my time allows from now through the end of the month. Watch for news of several upcoming classes plus my quirky notes from the road.

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Nineteen folks enrolled in my "Peace Cranes Over Hiroshima" class today at International Quilt Festival in Houston, and they were an exceptionally delightful group. Several had never foundation paper pieced, and this is not a beginner's quilt but they were fearless. By the end of the day, you would have thought they'd been foundation piecing for years.

Their work was beyond good. Thank you to all in the class for making today among my best ever teaching days. It was an honor to be with you, to quilt with you, to laugh with you, to enjoy six hours pursuing our passion. Great day!

"Peace Cranes Over Hiroshima" quilt, designed

by Dana Jones

We worked on Elna eXcellence 780 Plus machines in our classroom today and yesterday. These are quiet, smooth running machines. There wasn't one issue with any of the 20+ machines in the classrooms. Our Elna educator, Sam Fong, was superb.

I'm pleasantly exhausted again tonight. I will give a lecture tomorrow before saying goodbye to Houston for this year. It has been a good experience. I've learned a lot and met so many wonderful people. I've had the chance to connect in person with several folks I've only known online. Those experiences have been a joy. Among these folks is Linda Marcinowski. A quilt she recently completed is pictured below. I have enjoyed knowing her and seeing her work online for some time now. Linda, thanks for stopping by my classroom to say hello.

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