How would you like to own this lovely quilt, made by award-winning quiltmaker, author, and teacher, Sue Nickels? You can, if yours is the winning bid during the upcoming Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative’s online quilt auction!
The Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative (AAQI) is an all-volunteer national charity whose mission is to raise awareness and fund research through art. Quiltmaker Ami Simms, whose mother suffered with Alzheimer’s, is the founder and executive director of AAQI, which has raised over $570,000 for the cause since January 2006.
“A Bouquet for You” is one of twenty outstanding pieces awaiting your bid on the AAQI site from August 1 – 10. All of the quilts were part of the AAQI’s first traveling exhibit, Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece, which was seen by more than 300,000 people!
Although bidding officially opens on August 1, you can preview the quilts and start planning your strategy NOW.
Don’t miss out on this rare opportunity:
to acquire a quilt made by a nationally acclaimed quilter, some of whom rarely ever sell their work
to own a quilt from the exhibit that has touched the hearts of hundreds of thousands of people
to help raise much-needed funds to fight a disease that has–based on the statistics–likely touched the life of someone you know
There are a number of other ways that you can support the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative. One way is to make and donate a Priority: Alzheimer’s Quilt; that is, a 9″ x 12″ (maximum) quilt that will fit into a USPS Priority envelope without folding. These little quilts have proven to be excellent fundraisers when they are auctioned or sold. For more info, visit the AAQI webpage.
“There are an estimated 5.4 million with Alzheimer’s in the US alone. We believe we can make a difference, one quilt at a time.”
–Ami Simms, founder and executive director of the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative
Just a few reminders before I sign off:
If you haven’t already, don’t forget to tell us about your favorite tool or notion for piecing by making a comment at the end of our July 26 group post. Deadline to be included in the random drawing is noon (PDT) Friday, August 5. Don’t miss this chance to win a basket filled with piecing goodies, including Clover Fork Pins, Alex Anderson’s 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool, a technique-loaded book, and more!
And finally, our next post (Tuesday, August 2) will feature a very special guest poster. Hint: Many of us love to use her gorgeous fabrics in quilts, garments, totes, home-dec items…
Recently we reached an important milestone at See How We Sew, and—as you can see—we treated ourselves to a little celebration. It was a big moment for us, and since you are the reason for our success, we wanted to bring you something special as a way of saying thanks. Since we couldn’t share the cake, we decided to debut an idea we’ve been thinking about for awhile. Welcome to our very first group post!
For our first collective posting we decided to address the question: What is your favorite tool or notion for piecing? We’ve provided links whenever we mention a product by name so that you can research our favorites for yourself. If you decide our must-have is a must-have for you too, we hope that you’ll look to your local quilt shop as your primary source.
Ready? In first-name alphabetical order, here were our responses.
Christie: I am a big fan of Clover Fork Pins. They’re “two-prong” pins that work beautifully to keep intersecting seams from slipping when you’re sewing rows together. In most cases, I press the seam allowances for my first row in one direction, then the next row in the opposite direction, alternating every other row.
The pins are easy to use. Pin two rows with right sides together. At each intersection, nestle–but don’t overlap–the opposing seams. Insert the pin with one prong on each side of the seam. The two prongs keep the intersecting seams from slipping like nothing else I’ve ever tried. I won’t sew rows together without them!
Darra: Lately I’ve become a big fan of my 4-in-1 Essential Sewing Tool, designed by Alex Anderson. It “lives” right next to my sewing machine. Embarrassed to say, I probably use the seam ripper most, but I’ve also become hooked on the stiletto for keeping seams flipped in the right direction and for guiding the tail-ends of pieces/units under the feed-dogs. The cap on one end of the tool is blunted for “finger-pressing” and the other cap is pointed, which is great for poking out pillow corners, stuffing doll parts, and myriad other sewing tasks. (The “4-in-1″ link above takes you to a video that shows you how to use it.)
Another must-have for me is my Grabbit Magnetic Pincushion. Even if I don’t have a major spill, I “sweep” the floor around my work station when I wrap up a sewing session; I don’t want to lose any of my precious Clover extra-fine, 1 3/8″, glass-head pins, or have my faithful sewing-room buddy, Scooter, try one as a snack. Oh…and spray starch; I use it to press all my finished blocks.
Jennifer: For me, it’s fantastic small, sharp scissors and a great seam ripper. I guess by my choice I’m demonstrating a propensity for snipping stitches. Hey, we all make mistakes, especially when we’re powering to the end. For me, at least, that’s where I meet trouble and I gotta fix things. Do I have a brand? No, but I have a tendency to buy tiny scissors, and I like them all. I’ve got a terrific Clover seam ripper, but I’m thinking of trying that thingy that slices stitches—anyone know the name of that thingy? Then, to vanquish the miniscule thread scraps, I like to use my beading tweezers because the tips snag those last bits of thread wonderfully. And then tape or one of those 3M lint removers to pick up the stray strands from my thread-picking session.
Laura: When I’m piecing, I use a “scant” 1/4″ seam allowance, and it’s important to me that I achieve it accurately and consistently every time. If you’re frustrated by the inability to sew an accurate 1/4″ seam allowance every time you sit down to piece, you might like to try the Perfect Piecing Seam Guide by Perkins Dry Goods. It’s easy to use, and the packaging explains how the tool works. I like the fact that it allows me to set up my machine for the perfect, scant 1/4″ seam.
To use the guide, simply place it under the presser foot of your sewing machine and lower the needle into the hole (shown in the middle of the horizontal line in the photo above).Then lower the presser foot to hold the guide firmly. This is important: Straighten the guide so that it is parallel with the edge of the throat plate.
Now you’re ready to place masking tape or several layers of sticky notes up against the right hand side of the guide to mark a perfect scant 1/4″! Remove the guide and use the edge of the tape (or sticky notes) to guide the fabric as you sew.
So there you have it: some of our very favorite tools and notions for piecing. We have no doubt that you’ve got your favorites as well, and we’d love to hear about them. To sweeten the pot, we’ve planned a very special giveaway!
Post a comment telling us about your favorite tool(s) or notion(s) for piecing, and you’ll become eligible to win a goodie-filled gift package that includes a selection of the favorites we’ve revealed in our post, plus a few additional “surprises.” Since we want to give you the optimum opportunity to comment, we’re extending our usual one-week deadline until noon (PDT), Friday, August 5. That’s a little more than 10 days to share your “faves.” Laura will announce the lucky winner in her Tuesday, August 9 post.
Do let us know if you like the idea of an occasional group post, and if you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see us address. We’ll toss those comments into the pot for the drawing as well.
One last thing before we sign off. We have a very special guest poster scheduled for Tuesday, August 2. We’re so excited–and you won’t want to miss it!
What’s the origin of today’s sunny theme? Well, I’m channeling those arbiters of fashion on the TLC channel, Stacy and Clinton from What Not To Wear. Did you know that just a few seasons ago they crowned marigold yellow as the HOT color?
Their choice must have resonated with me because on my next quilt-shop visit I fell in love with a simmering sunshiny yellow batik print. Turns out that fabric was exactly the right answer for a design I’d been contemplating—it just took me a couple of years to finish the quilt. I call it Flying Colors!
After so much time in production I had to wonder if I’d fallen behind the times. Check it out: the July 2011 Elle Décor says yellow is on trend (still) and they picked pretty examples in fashion and design to prove it. I especially love the dazzling yellows paired with bright white, don’t you?
So let’s take a look at some trendy yellows because if you’re plundering your stash for sunny hues, you’re going to find that the yellow prints in quilts shops now have a strong citrus flavor.
Like every color commercially available, our fave yellow tones have evolved, which is something I can actually demonstrate with a vintage Key West Hand Printed Fabrics Inc. sample that my mom gave me a few years ago when she was cleaning out our decades-old family stash. Take a look below.
It’s truly weird with its yellow, brown, white color scheme. Believe me it’s atypical as well for the Lily Pulitzer fashions that used that fabric line for ages in clothing and home decor. My mother is ever the fan of yellow, but this example is more challenging than most. I’ve been trying to come up with a design that showcases it, but it’s surprisingly difficult to find yellows with the right undertones to work with the vintage piece.
Here’s my color story so far, but it doesn’t thrill me. Hey, anyone with an idea how to tackle this? Let me know! I’m auditioning all sorts of designs like this Crate & Barrel pillow from an old catalog. But then I just might give up that idea and make the summer skirt my mom suggested decades ago!
Textile update: I’ve uncovered a back story to my vintage fabric. The company is closed now and there’s an online scramble for authentic Key West Hand Print Fabrics Inc. from the Fifties and up. (May have to rethink my strategy!) Click the link above to read a blog entry (with the comments) about the designers. My sample has the name Pell in the selvage–he was a co-owner of the company. Click here (Thatcher’s Fine Timeless Fabric) for a seriously upscale, modernized version created with the input of the original designers and available to the trade via Brunschwig et Fils.
Last Friday my friend Allison and I took a “mini road trip.” Living in Northern California gives us access to more than our share of wonderful places, one of which is the picturesque Napa Valley, less than an hour away. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 70s. Two weeks ago it was over 100 degrees (I’m not a fan of the heat), so I was thoroughly enjoying the sunny skies and cool breezes.
What would our little excursion be without a visit to a quilt shop? There’s a fabulous one in downtown Napa called Quiltmaker. It’s owned by two lovely women (Nancy and Diane), who keep it stocked with a marvelous collection of fabrics. I found one that blew me away. It didn’t just call my name – it shouted to me! It’s a border print designed by artist Amelia Caruso for Robert Kaufman called Effervescence.
I have absolutely no idea what I’m going to do with it – but it’ll have to be quite special. One more notable fact to keep in mind about the quilt shop – there’s a Ben & Jerry’s right next door.
After getting several appealing recommendations for lunch (always ask the staff in the quilt shops where to eat) we decided on Bistro Sabor – just a short walk and described as being delicious and fresh. It’s a casual little place offering “contemporary expressions of Latin America’s favorite street food and snacks.” We both had grilled salmon tacos with mango – awesome and indeed very fresh! I was so inspired I visited our local farmer’s market yesterday and picked up some tomatoes, pluots and white nectarines. I might make mango salsa this week – and maybe pigs will fly!
Take the time to enjoy a “mini road trip” with a friend – it’s a lovely way to spend the day and you just might find a treasure or two. If you find yourself in the Napa Valley, visit Quiltmaker and Bistro Sabor – guaranteed not to disappoint!
We all know the drill. We walk innocently into a quilt shop or vendors’ mart, or visit our favorite online fabric site–“just to look”–and there they are, calling our name. How can we resist them? Whether attractively bundled in yummy coordinated packets, stacks, or towers, or enticingly displayed in individual rolls or folds, fat quarters–those lovely 18″ x 22″ slices of fabric–are pure temptation.
This past May, amidst all the color and commotion on the show floor at Spring Market, my eye was drawn to a booth brimming with absolutely the coolest quilts. The palettes were stylish and sophisticated, the designs fresh and appealing…and all were made with fat quarters. Trust me: these were not your mother’s fat-quarter quilts!
In short order, I managed to meet the talented pattern designer, Stephanie Prescott, and her mom, Susan. The two comprise the creative and business know-how behind A Quilter’s Dream, formerly a brick-and-mortar quilt shop, but now a show and online business based in San Dimas, CA. A Quilter’s Dream carries a wonderful array of patterns designed by Stephanie–many utilizing fat quarters–plus a select collection of favorite patterns by other designers, fat-quarter packs and fabric kits, books, and notions.
Want a peek? You’re just in time. A Quilter’s Dream is about to unveil a brand-spanking-new, updated website. Patterns for all quilts and totes shown in this post will be available on the new website (www.aquiltersdream.com), which is scheduled to be up and running on Monday, July 18. (If not, it will be very soon after.)
Color is Stephanie’s springboard. That’s where she starts when planning a new quilt; particulars of the design come after the palette is chosen. She favors the scrappy look–some of her bed-sized designs include between 20 – 30 fat-quarters–and seems impervious to the 18″ x 22″ limitations of the fabrics: blocks in her fat-quarter quilts range from 6″ to 18″.
Here are some additional fat-quarter insights from this accomplished designer.
Worried about fat quarters raveling in the wash? Don’t wash them! If the occasional heavily overdyed fabric makes you nervous, test it in warm water with liquid detergent. Still in doubt? Wash the finished quilt with a color fixative such as Retayne.
Store fat quarters by color, rather than by “genre” (batiks, Asian-inspired prints, repros, etc.). Mixing prints in the storage stage tends to translate into added richness and variety in your quilts, too.
Running out of a particular fabric is not a tragedy. It is, to quote Stephanie, “what’s so fabulous” about working fat-quarter scrappy. Simply substitute another fat quarter in a similar color and/or value.
Unless you absolutely can’t resist, if you’re a fat-quarter newbie, begin your collection by purchasing small bundles and/or individual fat-quarter pieces rather than “mega towers.” You’ll get more of a mix and be able to stretch your dollars to build a more versatile collection more quickly. Better yet, if you’re feeling brave, make up your own fat-quarter packets. Buy what you like, and don’t worry about being “matchy, matchy.”
A tote is a great way to experiment with fat quarters; you have a smaller number of fabrics to work with, and typically, all the fabrics work as equal partners.
My thanks to Stephanie for sharing her tips and photos. I hope you’ll stop by A Quilter’s Dream website and have a look at all the wonderful goodies she has to offer.
Last, but not least, congratulations to Linda G, winner of the book, Favorite Techniques from the Experts, the giveaway in my July 1 post.
As you may know by now, I am often drawn to Asian-inspired designs and fabrics. I am currently teaching a Block of the Month class using Susan Briscoe’s book, Japanese Taupe Quilts. It features 125 beautiful blocks (pieced, appliquéd, and embellished). Designs are taken from a variety of traditional sources, including Japanese fabric, paper, architectural designs, and kamon family crests.
It was difficult to narrow the choice down to 12 blocks to fill a year’s worth of classes. So, at the request of my students, I’ve been adding a few more blocks each month. By the end of the year, each student will have a nice collection of blocks to sew into a sampler quilt. (The book also contains lots of great setting ideas for combining blocks.) I’ll be sure to post photos of the finished quilts.
I love the look of the taupe quilts, but honestly have a hard time working without the punch of color. While recently teaching at a local quilt shop, Queen B’s, I asked “Ms B” to choose a collection of Asian-inspired prints that she would like to see used to make up blocks from the book. Here is what she came up with. We both find it helpful to start with an “inspiration” or “focus” fabric and build from there.
The class gives me an opportunity to teach a variety of techniques, including precision piecing, appliqué (hand and machine), curved piecing, and so much more.
Last week we were working on a block with bias-tape appliqué.
I was able to show the students three options for making the narrow bias strips, which can be used for vines, stems, and for outlining shapes, as shown above. If you’d like to try working with these versatile strips, I suggest trying one of my two favorite tools for making them: Fasturn and Clover’s Bias Tape Maker.
Happy sewing everyone.
PS – Be sure to check back as I am working on an instructional video to demonstrate the use of the tools.
Ever meet a quilter and think she’s got it all? Mad skills. Incredible taste. Drool-worthy quilts. I’m sure we all know at least one—here’s my candidate (and friend): Kim Butterworth, formerly a Michigander and now a Californian.
We met purely by accident, invited into a quilt group founded on a mandate of reading notable books and making quilts inspired by the prose. That group evaporated (mission insanity for busy women being a ready cause) and a few of the refugees banded together with a more modest goal of meeting regularly for a sociable dinner and craft talk.
Turns out that was kismet because we’ve got a great thing going now—nights out filled with laughter, camaraderie, good advice, and occasional quilt making. In fact, the survivors were among my first calls when I needed quilts to fill out my Flower-Powered Quilts (scroll to blog mention) special exhibit for the World Quilt Show Florida in 2010. Who was first in line? That would be Kim who made an original art quilt plus a duet of quilts with me–each fantastic!
So Kim, were you a crafty kid?
Yes, I was and I still am. As I think about it now everybody in the family had something they liked to do. For my father it was auto mechanics, woodworking for my brother, and sewing for my mother and me. My mom favored embroidery while my aunt tatted—I still wish I’d learned the tatting.
What’s your quilting story?
I remember sitting in the back seat of my Dad’s Chevy pretending to sew with an imaginary needle and thread. I think that clued my mother into my sewing destiny, so she started teaching me after that. She’s the one who signed me up for my first quilting class too. For ten weeks after work I’d commute practically across the state for the class. I loved it because each week we’d tackle a new block. I remember showing the teacher a quilt I’d seen in a magazine that I wanted to try. She told me it was too hard for me. Mistake. I made that quilt along with the class sampler—although I still haven’t finished hand quilting it 20 years later!
You favor art quilts and contemporary styles; when and how did you make the transition from the traditional forms?
When I moved to California over 10 years ago, I didn’t know about art quilts until I attended a show in Petaluma, north of San Francisco. That was eye opening! I upgraded my sewing machine soon after that and reacquainted myself with a craft I’d kind of abandoned because life intervened. I jumped in and started taking classes with exciting teachers, especially at the Empty Spools seminars in Pacific Grove where I selected workshops with Jane Sassaman and Ruth McDowell. My first art quilt was actually the one I made for the book The Samurai’s Garden when we were in that quilting group—it won a ribbon at a local guild show!
What inspires you?
Many things—I respond to visual stimulation—but mostly nature.
You’ve got a super-workable stash; what’s your shopping strategy?
I don’t buy a lot of super-bright fabrics or those with harsh tones. I buy smaller quantities of themed fabric, but I’m vulnerable to prints with script. I buy for color and then for pattern.
Your quilts are very clean and meticulous—every element works in harmony—is that the result of a lot of planning?
I’m probably more spontaneous than it looks. I don’t necessarily have a plan, but I do set parameters. (That’s less-true for a Ruth McDowell-like project that requires a lot of pattern drafting.) Typically, I work on a project until I hit a design snag and then I put it on hold for another project until I find an answer. Bottom line is I know what I like, but it just might take me a while—along with some seam ripping and re-sewing—to get there.
Writing about the people and things I enjoy about quilting is a real treat as a blogger—hope you enjoyed the peek into Kim’s art. Do you have a quilt or craft artist you admire? BTW: Keep on scrolling for a peek at another one of Kim’s award-winning art quilts.
I thought the donut photo might get your attention. Actually, my topic has nothing to do with the delectable edibles in the picture. It’s another of my favorite things – a frosted donut of a totally different kind – thread!!
Superior Threads makes this Frosted Donut, a colorful collection of 36 MasterPiece (#50 100% extra-long staple Egyptian-grown cotton) L style pre-wound bobbins, all tucked into a blue rubber bobbin holder. The range of colors is totally gorgeous!
So where does the appliqué come in? I use the pre-wound bobbins for the blanket stitch on my appliqué projects – not in the bobbin, but on top. With 36 colors to choose from, I can almost always find one in the donut that matches my fabric. It’s very handy, and more economical than buying 36 individual spools of thread! Just pop a pre-wound bobbin onto the spool pin of your machine.
I prefer to finish my appliqué motifs with a narrow, barely visible blanket stitch. I select stitch #45 on my Bernina, narrow the stitch width to 1.4, use a Microtex sharp needle size 80/12, and an open-toe presser foot. In the bobbin (using a regular bobbin), I use a thread color that comes close to the frosted donut bobbin on top – it doesn’t have to match exactly.
Below is a photo of Snips & Snails, a 40″ x 40″ children’s quilt pattern from my company, Artichoke Collection. The design features a combination of simple pieced and applique blocks geared for boys. Sorry about Mr. Turtle’s eyes – I just couldn’t resist the temptation!
You can find Frosted Donuts in most quilt and fabric shops. I recently visited the Superior Threads website and noticed they’ve added another donut with a new array of colors in a lavender bobbin holder – Frosted Donut II. Looks tempting….
Until next time – may all your donuts be frosted and your turtles have 20/20 vision.
Happy July 4th weekend to all our American friends! As you can see, that all-American girl, Sunbonnet Sue, has caught the spirit. She’s the July entry in my book, A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue, co-authored with Christine Porter, and she’s got eleven specially themed friends, one for each month of the year, complete with full-sized patterns and instructions. Ask for her at your favorite quilt shop, or–for an autographed copy–email me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
So…What do you have planned for the long holiday weekend? Why not take the opportunity to try something “freeing” and EASY at your sewing machine…like the liberating free-form flowers that bloom on my wall quilt “Still Life #1″ (shown below)? They are a snap to make and are a great way to use up your scraps. Use them on blocks or pillows, to embellish garments or totes, to create a free-form Baltimore Album-style quilt or your own original “still life”…the only limit is your imagination.
1. Cut an irregular four-sided shape (not a square or rectangle) for the flower center.
2. Sew a scrap of “flower” fabric to one side of the flower center. Make sure the scrap overhangs the edge of the flower center on each end. Press the seam away from the flower center.
3. Trim the two side edges of the flower fabric to follow the edges of the flower center. Trim the top edge at any angle you like.
4. Using the same process, proceed counterclockwise around the flower center, adding a flower-fabric piece to each of the remaining three sides. Press and trim as you go.
5. “Shape” your flower by trimming each of the four corners at a random angle. Spray lightly with spray starch or fabric sizing to stabilize.
You can make the flowers any size you like. Experiment with hand-dyed fabrics, batiks… even velvet or dupioni silk. I typically fuse the flowers to the background and secure them with a machine straight stitch and decorative threads, but feel free to explore other options. Embellish your blossoms with beads or buttons.
In “Gustav’s Dream (shown at right), I made the flowers extra small, and tied them in place with gold metallic thread. For more about this quilt, see the article “Flower-Powered Quilts Reap Huge Rewards” in the August issue of The Quilt Life magazine.
Do you have a favorite technique for making flowers for your quilts? A special quilt you’ve made with a floral theme? Post a comment by noon (PDT) Friday, July 8, and you’ll be entered in a random drawing to receive a copy of Rodale’s Successful Quilting Library: Favorite Techniques from the Experts. The book features “Still Life #1″ on the cover, and includes my chapter on the free-form flower technique, with additional tips and ideas for using the finished blossoms. It also includes chapters on favorite techniques of such well-known quilters as Mary Stori, Ami Simms, Sally Schneider, Karen Kay Buckley, Karen Combs, Sharyn Craig, Anita Shackelford, and more. The winner will be announced in my post on Friday, July 15.
That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!