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Destination Design

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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