Quilting in Exotic Places: SAQA Member Paula Benjaminson Quilts and Shops for Fabric in West Africa (GIVEAWAY!)

A wondrous array of colors and prints on display for sale in Libreville, Gabon.

I met Paula Benjaminson several years ago when I was doing a book signing at the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show in Oregon for Wine Country Quilts (a fabulous book I co-authored Cyndy Rymer). Paula is an ex-diplomat/quilter whose husband had just been posted to Burkina Faso in West Africa for the U.S. State Department. I impressed her because I actually knew where Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso’s capital) was—hey; my brother-in-law and his family lived there for a while . . . pure serendipity—my knowledge of other African capitals is spotty at best.

Turns out Paula has been reading SHWS from Libreville, Gabon where she balances duties as the U.S. Ambassador’s spouse, mother to college-age children, and quilt maker/teacher/prowler of Libreville fabric markets.  Paula is an active member of Studio Art Quilt Associates (SAQA) and teaches internationally. She’s on the teaching roster for the June 2013 London, Ontario International Quilt Festival where the event theme will be “Out of Africa.” I invited Paula to share some of her experiences of quilting and shopping for fabric in West Africa in a two-part guest post. AND, Paula is VERY generously hosting a GIVEAWAY of a selection of handpicked African fabric —check out the details below.  

Strolling the Fabric Markets of Africa with Paula Benjaminson

For close to a decade I’ve been living in several African countries as a member of the U.S. diplomatic community. I was a fairly traditional quilter with a small, fairly traditional fabric stash when I landed in our first posting to Burkina Faso. While I’d been teaching more traditional quilting skills and styles to both children and adults when we lived in Belgium, my years in Ouagadougou, Windhoek, and Libreville have changed all that! I’m now a resourceful, intrepid, venturesome, maybe even cheeky quilter!

In all of these places, I’ve taught quilting to groups of international students, drawing on the culture, colors, and designs available to us for inspiration and using whatever materials we could gather locally. Of course, we often need more fabric to meet our design needs—funny how universal that need seems to be among quilters—so we go off to the market to buy some fabulous pieces.

Fabulous Fabric Finds

Shopping for African fabric in the bustling open market is one of the things I love best about living here. In Ouagadougou, that meant browsing outdoor stalls crammed with stacked lengths of West African prints, batiks, and hand-dyes that I couldn’t resist buying. In Libreville, where I live now, there are outdoor market stalls and larger, indoor stores, again so stuffed with color and pattern that it makes it very hard to choose just one or two . . .

Strolling the fabric markets of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

Fabric is sold in 6-yard lengths in most of West Africa because shoppers typically are buying fabric to make clothing, and the traditional dress styles require just about 6 yards per outfit. When my students and I buy fabric for quilting, we agree ahead of time to each buy a different fabric (or several different fabrics). Then, when we get back to my house after shopping, we trade half-yard cuts of green drums for half-yards of brown circles or gold dancers for red birds! It isn’t the way we shop for fabric in the US, but it works for us!

After the fabric shopping spree . . . dividing and sharing the wonderfulness.

An African Spin on Wedding Fashions–The Guests Wear the Celebration Print Too!

What makes my fabric forays even more interesting is seeing how African social customs are reflected in the way fabric is printed and sold. It’s commonplace to see sample lengths of fabric displayed with signs telling you who has chosen that particular print for a wedding or anniversary pattern. The idea is that all the guests will buy some of the chosen fabric and have a shirt, or a complete outfit made from it, to wear to the event. It’s a wonderfully inclusive custom that makes each guest feel part of the special day, and whenever they wear that dress or shirt afterwards, they remember the event and the people that are associated with that fabric.

Another tradition here is that fabrics are used to communicate, much as we might wear a T-shirt with a printed slogan. Fabrics are often printed to commemorate special events like an election, a religious celebration, a film festival, or an anniversary of independence, as seen in the photo.

Prints celebrating Gabon’s independence.

Enter to Win a Bundle of African Prints from Paula’s Stash

In an amazing coincidence of timing, Paula’s sent me a bundle of wonderful African prints to share with one of our lucky SHWS readers. She’s just arrived in the U.S. to drop off her youngest at college and she hand carried (then mailed) a package to me. Here’s your giveaway entry question:  If you could visit Africa what country would you select as your first stop? (Easy for me:  Botswana! I LOVE The Number 1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall.) Name your destination in a comment below by Friday, September 7 and I’ll announce a winner in my next post where Paula will share Part 2 of her African series. Stay current with Paula’s further quilting adventures via her blog.

Special Delivery from Gabon: Paula is sharing selected swatches from her stash!

Later all! I’m off to work like a madwoman so I can finish a couple of new projects for Quilting in the Garden–fingers crossed!

Let’s Talk Strips

In keeping with our August SeeHowWeSew theme of strips and stripes - let’s talk strips! I’m extremely fond of those wonderful pre-cut strips (2 1/2″ cuts of your favorite fabric line ready to use). It was only a year or so ago that I tried my first pre-cut (a Moda Jelly Roll), and was surprised how much time I saved by purchasing the strips already cut. Many of the major fabric companies are producing their own versions of pre-cuts: Timeless Treasures does Tonga Treats in beautiful batiks, as does Hoffman with their Bali Pops. Rowan calls their pre-cut strips Design Rolls.

Goodness knows you can still cut your own strips, and I often still do – it just depends on the project. But there is something quite decadent about buying them already cut!!  In addition to our Block of the Month project, I’ve designed two patterns that use 2 1/2″ strips. The first is Block Party, which is a simple-to-sew design, alternating two pieced square blocks with sashing and a pieced border. The blocks are made from 2 1/2″ strips, and the pieced border is a combination of leftover strips and random squares and rectangles. If you’re using pre-cuts, buy a package of 5″ squares in the same line as your strips, and you’ll have enough to combine with the leftover strips to complete the border. 

Block Party is one of my favorite patterns and I never get tired of making samples and teaching it! I’ve seen it done in so many different fabric styles and each one has been unique. The first sample is made from strips I cut from my Kaffe Fassett stash (which never seems to shrink, because I keep buying more), using primarily reds and pinks:

I love Kaffe Fassett fabrics!

This next one is made entirely from Amy Butler’s Soul Blossoms line. It’s one of my favorites, but you have to look carefully to see the different fabrics in the photo.

Amy Butler’s Soul Blossoms – awesome!

This one is made from a Timeless Treasures Tonga Treat called Pink Lemonade. I was thrilled with the color palette when I saw the package and knew it had Block Party written all over it.

Pink Lemonade says it all!

The final Block Party sample is made primarily from the Dilly Dally line, designed by Me and My Sister for ModaIn this quilt, I chose to assemble the squares by color, and I love the result!  

These colors are so happy!

My latest pattern made with 2 1/2″ strips is Sweetheart. I think it’s the perfect quilt for a special little girl. For this one, I started with the border fabric (one of my favorite Kaffe Fassett prints), and picked fabrics from my “Kaffe stash” that coordinated with the border fabric.

For girls only!

I hope these projects have inspired you to try strips – they’re lots of fun. Check for the Block Party and Sweetheart patterns at your local quilt shop, and if you can’t find them there, both are available for purchase on my Artichoke Collection website.   

I’m going to be teaching my Retro Chic pattern on Thursday, September 20th,  at Quilting in the Garden. I would love to meet you and promise it will be a fun day. Retro Chic is made from one block with only four pieces (the magic comes from fabric placement). I’ll show you how easy it is to do simple curved piecing. Remember my motto “unique designs with simple techniques for every style.”  In other words – nothing to stress over!  

Retro Chic – simple curves – easy to make!

Check out this great Quilting in the Garden tee shirt – available at In Between Stitches in Livermore, CA.

 Take care and try strips!

A “Fine Finish” — A Special Quilt is Florida Bound! (Giveaway, Too)

As you are reading this, a special quilt is winging its way to a special little boy in Florida. In my June 15 post, I told you about a quilt I was making to welcome the new grandson of my dear friend Christy–a quilt made from shirts belonging to her husband Ray, who died last August after a valiant battle with cancer.

The talented Jo Ann Carpenter did a wonderful job quilting Hugs and Kisses from Grandpa. She outlined each hug and kiss, and crosshatched through the pieced squares and border–just the right touch for this clean, simple design.

“Hugs and Kisses from Grandpa”–Made by Darra Williamson and machine quilted by Jo Ann Carpenter. Click on Free Pattern tab at the top of the page for instructions and applique patterns for making this quilt.

To bind the quilt, I cut 2 1/8″ strips from the various shirt leftovers, and pieced them end to end with right-angle seams.

I join my binding strips with diagonal seams to reduce bulk.
The first of Cyndy’s three books about printing on fabric

I knew I wanted something special for the label, so I called on my buddy, Cyndy Rymer, coauthor/editor (with Lynn Koolish and Hewlett-Packard) of three books on transferring photos and text to fabric. Using an EQ Printables Inkjet Fabric Sheet, the Photoshop program on Cyndy’s laptop, and her trusty inkjet printer, we created a label that I think is the perfect finishing touch for this special quilt.

We combined a photo with text giving the specifics of why, for whom, and by whom the quilt was made. In one of those instances of amazing serendipidy, the shirt “Grandpa Ray” wears in the photo is one of the shirts that I used in the quilt!

I fused the label to a “framing” fabric, topstitched the label edges, and then turned under a 1/4″ hem and topstitched all around the edges of the frame.

Story almost finished. It so happens that there are also two granddaughters in the family, and I couldn’t very well leave them out! These two young ladies are a bit older (both in “double digits”), so I settled upon a pillow for each, using the same 5″ cut squares and appliqued  Xs and Os that I used in the quilt. I wanted a pillow that would fit a standard 18″ pillow form, so I cut border strips 2 3/4″ wide, sewed them on using a standard 1/4″ seam, and added a pillow back, once again using my pillow-making Bible, Jean and Valori Wells’ Oh Sew Easy Pillows as a guide.

I made two 18″ pillows, one for each granddaughter.

I added a little surprise on the back, perfect for tucking tiny treasures.

A pocket from one of Grandpa’s shirts makes the perfect place for special treasures.

If you’d like to make a special label for a special quilt, we’re here to help. EQ (Electric Quilt) has generously donated an EQ Printables Inkjet Fabric Sample Pack as a giveaway to one of our readers. Leave a comment by midnight (PDT) Wednesday, September 5, telling us about a special quilt you’ve either given or received, and I’ll announce the winner in my next scheduled post.

Before I wrap up, I want to thank the many, many readers who took the time to comment on my post about Mary Elizabeth Kinch and her new book, Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts. If you haven’t read the comments, you should: some of them are really funny! The winner of the book, chosen by random drawing, is Judy in SC. Ms. G, please refresh me on your snail-mail address via seehowwesew@gmail, and I’ll get your book on its way.

That’s it for now. Don’t forget about Quilting in the Garden, which will be here before we know it! ‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Northwest Quilting Expo: A Perfect Quilting Getaway

Do you ever wonder how your calendar fills up so quickly? I swear that some little gremlin comes in during the night and pencils in all sorts of activities in an effort to keep me out of trouble. I looked ahead to the next few months, and see that I have a very busy schedule. In addition to the guest appearance we are all making at our local Quilting in the Garden at Alden Lane (Livermore, CA), my first stop will be at the Northwest Quilting Expo at the Portland (OR) Expo Center.

The Magical Mermaid’s Castle by Claudia Pfeil of Germany won the Best in Show award at the 2011 Northwest Quilting Expo.

The show runs from Sept. 20-22 and promises to be the biggest and best yet. I love visiting Oregon and it should be the perfect time of year for traveling to this beautiful area of the country. I am pleased to be included in the line-up of instructors along with Rob Appell, Marci Baker, and Deb Karasik.

This is one of the Twelve by Twelve Challenge quilts at the exhibit; based on the color eggplant.

There will be six special exhibits and over 75 vendors to tempt you with the newest fabrics, books, and notions. In addition, five local quilt guilds will be exhibiting, including Portland Modern Quilt Guild,  Columbia FiberArts GuildCover to Cover Book Club Quilters and several more. A juried show with over 500 works of art will be on display for your viewing pleasure.

Guernsey Country Fair by Pat Busby of the Cover to Cover Book Club Quilters. Inspired by the book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.

I will be teaching two 2-day workshops on two of my favorite patterns: The Big Tumble and Going to Market.

I’ll teach you to take the fear out of working with y-seams.
Learn some tricks for making perfectly shaped appliquéd handles.

If you are in the Portland area, be sure to stop in and join the fun. If you are not from the area, this might be the perfect opportunity to plan a road trip or needed getaway with some of your quilting friends.

Hope you are all enjoying this last month of summer.

p.s. It’s not to late to join me in the online classroom on The Quilt Show. Session Four begins today; I will be demonstrating the Sawtooth Star block. It’s easy and free to become a Basic Member, and the best part is that you can view the lessons at your leisure.

Group Post: Make the Most of Those Sensational Stripes!

Earlier this month, as we were mulling over topics for this month’s See How We Sew theme, the subject of “stripes” popped into the mix. Bingo! We all love these versatile fabrics, and–in the course of our conversation–discovered that we each have unique ways of putting them to work in our quilts. Here are some of our favorite ideas for creative use of those sensational stripes.

Line ‘em up: Super stripes on parade

Christie:  I love to use stripes for narrow inner borders (1  1/2″ or less). When auditioning fabrics, be sure to position them so that the amount of exposed fabric approximates the finished width of the border. Perception can make a big difference in what works and what doesn’t. Good stripes can be hard to find, so when I see one that speaks to me, I usually buy at least a yard. Here are a few samples of my projects using stripes in narrow inner borders:

An atypical “stripe”–but a stripe all the same

Jennifer:  I love using stripes in setting triangles. Sometimes I find the perfect striped fabric, while other times I’ve got to make do and create my own. I always, always use Laura’s and Diana McClun’s method for determining setting-triangle sizes and quantities from the how-to section of their quintessential quilting guide, Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!

You can actually create a variety of wonderful secondary designs with striped setting triangles, but the simplest method is to crosscut squares of striped fabric and place matching triangles on opposite sides of the quilt. Check out the illustrations; they tell the story better.

Side-setting triangles:

Corner-setting triangles–follow the placement guidelines:

Laura: I’m often looking for fabrics that provide visual texture in my quilts. Stripes are some of my favorites. When looking for binding fabrics, I frequently check to see if I have a stripe that will work well with my quilt. I love the look a striped fabric provides as a finishing touch. If my fabric is limited, I cut the binding strips on the straight grain of fabric. However, if the yardage allows, I enjoy cutting strips on the bias. Just remember always to use a walking foot when attaching the bias-cut binding strips to prevent stretching along the edges of your quilt.

Binding strips cut on the straight grain of fabric
Binding strips cut on the bias

Darra: I love anything that can save me time and effort! Here’s a nifty shortcut for creating checkerboards with striped fabrics. Once you start playing with this technique, I’ll bet you come up with loads of variations on your own.

Choose a fabric with stripes that are equal in width and have a regular repeat. Measure the width of the individual stripe (2″ in the black-and-white example below), add 1/2″ for seam allowance, and crosscut strips to that measurement. Lay out the strips, staggering the stripes as shown.

Pin the staggered strips, right sides together, carefully matching the opposing stripes. Sew the strips together using a 1/4″ seam. Press. Be sure to leave a 1/4″ seam allowance on either end when trimming the strips. How easy is that?!!

You can enhance the illusion of piecing by quilting “in the ditch” between the squares.

We hope our suggestions give you some great ideas for “snazzing up” your next project with stripes. ‘Til next time, happy sewing.

PS:  Don’t forget!

August Block of the Month: Close to Completion!

We’re into the home stretch, as this is the second-to-the-last block! I hope you’re having fun. Here’s the first sample of my August block, using Kathy Davis’ Happiness line and that great Kaffe Fassett dot:

And here’s the August block using the citron/gray fabrics:

Click here to download the instruction sheet for the August block (instruction sheets for all of the previous blocks can be found in our Pattern Library). And don’t forget, you only need to make two August blocks.

One last comment . . . is it Fall yet? It’s too hot for me. I went to the local Farmer’s Market on Saturday to get my husband his weekly ration of vine-ripened tomatoes, and just about melted.

They taste as good as they look!

The summer fruits and vegetables are so good, but as I navigated my way through the shoppers and strollers in 95 degree heat . . .

Stay cool . . . and don’t forget to save September 22-23 to visit us at Alden Lane for Quilting in the Garden.

Get the Lowdown on Little Pieces from Mary Elizabeth Kinch–Coauthor of “Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts”

“I’m not sure whether I keep finding antique quilts made with many, many  small pieces or if they keep finding me. One thing I know for sure is that I keep being enthralled with, and inspired by, them.” 

So confesses Mary Elizabeth Kinch, in the introduction to her brand-new book, Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts, coauthored with friend and fellow Canadian quiltmaker Biz Storms. I’m thrilled to have Mary Elizabeth on board today, visiting See How We Sew as part of her very busy blog hop.

Hot off the press from Martingale & Company!

The quilts in this book are simply A-M-A-Z-I-N-G …

Simple Gifts, 80″ x 80″, pieced by Mary Elizabeth Kinch, machine quilted by Robyn House-Guettler. Notice the tiny pieces in the corner squares, as well as the center diamond.

… and left me with many questions about how she does it, from collecting and managing those tiny pieces, to sewing, piecing, and pressing them. I asked, and here’s what she had to say.

How small a scrap is “small?”  At what point, if ever, do you toss a scrap?

If I cannot cut a 1″ square from it, then I toss it, although I have been known to keep favorite fabric strips that are a mere 3/4″ wide, bordering on 5/8″. A little 1/8″ sliver running across a string block is very sweet!

Note the wee (1/8″-wide) sliver running out from the bottom left corner of the photo.

I have to admit, I will put aside pieces that I know are too small, but that I cannot bear to part with. I use them for color “storyboards” for future projects. Okay, that’s an excuse … I’m a fabric junkie. The first step is admitting we have a problem, right?

How do you sort and store your small pieces?

When I first considered this question, I thought I had only one medium box of scraps … apparently denial is not just a river in Egypt!  That, ummm, would be three different containers, actually! If a piece is 2″ to 3″ or larger it gets filed back into the bin with other large pieces of that color, since I don’t want to miss any exciting fabrics when I do a fabric pull. I make an exception to re-filing if a fabric has been cut into a specific shape or size; then it goes into a resealable plastic bag in a separate bin. Strings have a container all to themselves.

A peek at Mary Elizabeth’s fabric “filing” system

Is your stash of small pieces self-generated or are you the recipient of “donations” from quilting friends? Do you ever take part in charm square or other fabric swaps?

My stash is a delightful combination of both. At one quilt retreat I used a soup pot to contain my “string” pieces. Over the course of the retreat, the stash in my pot grew as other attendees surreptitiously added to my collection!  I still find some of those “donations” now and then as I am stitching and smile every time I do.  My friend Judy, a member of Squeegees, a small quilting group that I belong to, has been known to arrive at meetings with a bag of beautiful scraps for me to add to my collection.  Other than that, I seem to have no trouble self-generating and have not yet taken part in fabric exchanges.

Go with the Flow, 90″ x 90″, pieced by Mary Elizabeth Kinch with original quilting design and machine quilting by Mary Elizabeth and Margaret Mitchell. If you’ve been wondering how Mary Elizabeth uses those strips, now you know!

Do you typically sew your small pieces by hand or machine? Do you have a favorite thread? Color of thread (top and bobbin)? If you sew by machine, do you adjust your stitch length?

My piecing is about 80/20, machine to hand right now.  My “go to” threads are: Aurifil and YLI Select, both great for hand and machine piecing.  When machine piecing, I use the same thread top and bottom. I have an assortment of neutral, taupe, brown, and gray threads. One of them will usually work for any given project.  I have a drawer of threads from my fashion-design days that I am slowly working through. I use these threads when I am piecing string quilts, as consistent use of the same thread and color is not as important in a scrappy quilt.

A (mere) sampling of Mary Elizabeth’s neutral-colored threads

For machine sewing these small pieces, I set the stitch on my Bernina at 2.5. Recently, when I’m chain piecing, I have been stitching past the end of the seam for about an inch, which “sort of” twists the two threads together, and then I snip the pieces apart about 1/2” away from the end of the seam. The thread and seam have to work a little harder to unravel when I do this.

Detail of Homeward Bound, pieced by Mary Elizabeth Kinch, Emma Kinch, and Helgard Koch, machine quilted by Margaret Mitchell in a machine-quilting design by Vicki Makaski

How do you press? Fingerpress? Iron? Steam or no?

May the heavens not open up and devour me when I say this, but I have taken to not pressing with an iron until the top is complete.  I just fingerpress as I go. Wassenaar Windmills (shown below) was done that way and went together beautifully since the blocks were not distorted or stretched by pressing. Of course, I suggest that you test this out on a few blocks yourself before you tackle a whole quilt!

Wassenar Windmills, 63 3/4″ x 85 1/2″, pieced by Mary Elizabeth Kinch and machine quilted by Margaret Mitchell in a machine-quilting design by Ellen Munnich

When I finally take the top to the ironing board, it can require some patience to tame all the seam allowances in the right direction on the back of the quilt, but it is worth it–and  I love steam!  The more steam the better, as it helps all those seam allowances on quilts with small pieces to lay down and behave.

Here’s Mary Elizabeth!

Great info, no? Well, if you like what you’ve heard (and seen), you just may be in luck. Mary Elizabeth and her publisher, Martingale & Company, have given us a copy of Small Pieces, Spectacular Quilts to give away to one of our lucky readers. Just leave a comment by midnight (PDT), August 27, telling us How small a scrap is “small?”  At what point, if ever, do you toss a scrap? and you’ll be entered in a random drawing for this wonderful prize. I’ll announce the winner in my Friday, August 27 post. Oh! And catch Mary Elizabeth at the next stop on her blog hop. She’ll be featured on Quiltsalott beginning Monday, August 13.

Speaking of winners, we had so many beautiful and heartfelt responses to our query “why quilts matter to you.” Congratulations to Linda Stone, winner of Why Quilts Matter: Politics, Art & History, the two-DVD, nine-part documentary profiled in my July 27 post. Linda, please send your snail-mail address to us at seehowwesew@gmail.com, and we’ll get your DVD set on its way.

I’m heading off this morning to pick up Hugs and Kisses from Grandpa from the quilter. In my next post, I’ll show you the finished quilt (with pieced binding and label)–and a little extra “something” I made for two special young ladies with the leftovers.

‘Til then, happy stitching!PS: Just over a month to go: See How We Sew at Quilting in the Garden, Alden Lane Nursery, Livermore, CA. Hope to see you there!

Short and Sweet: My Favorite Cookie Recipe

It’s been a bit busy around here lately, so I’m taking a much-needed break to bake some of my favorite cookies. I call them “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” cookies. Sometimes I toss in a few extras, such as chips (chocolate or white) and cranberries. It’s a “use-whatever-you-have” recipe. I have a class tonight and am hoping my students will enjoy them . . . and you also.

Warm from the oven, yum!

Here’s the recipe. Be creative with the ingredients and have fun!

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup sugar

1 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 cup oil

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup oats

1 cup crushed corn flakes (I’ve been using Honey Bunches of Oats – like the granola in it)

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/2 cup chopped pecans

3-1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

1. Cream together the butter and sugars. If you like light, fluffy cookies, beat for a full 5 minutes with an electric mixer.

2. Add the egg and mix.

3. Add oil and vanilla and mix.

4. Stir in oats, cereal, coconut, and pecans.

5. Add flour soda and salt. Mix well.

Place onto ungreased cookie sheet and bake for approximately 15 minutes.

Take care everyone. Until next time, happy sewing and/or baking.

Dress Rehearsal: It’s Why We Audition Fabric

I’m going to tell you this story in photos . . . there’s no tidy ending (yet). Many months ago, my quilting/dining group took on a group project for no particular reason other than we were giddy from finally managing to gather together at a quilt shop. The new quilting titles, the fabric, you know . . . we were intoxicated by all the colorful wonderfulness.

One of our crew fell in love with “The Seasons,” a quilt from Material Obsession 2 by Kathy Doughty and Sarah Fielke (her website), two fabulous Aussie quilters with a huge international following. Our biggest conceptual problem was that we had five quilters and four seasons to divvy up–we improvised a solution and grabbed a couple of focus fabrics as guides for our palette. We had the best of intentions, really, but we were vastly ambitious and seriously under-coordinated. In retrospect, we needed a group leader. Next time.

Click cover image to visit http://www.materialobsession.com

It took us forever, but we finally delivered the blocks last month. Sorting the collection into groups of four turned out to be HUGELY difficult because we’d gone off in different directions.

Starting from left: early summer, late summer (day/night), fall, winter, spring.
No your eyes aren’t cloudy, it’s the iPhone photo.

Cyndy Rymer was the first one to assemble a quilt top. The focus fabric, Jenaveve by Valori Wells for Free Spirit, a sumptuously wonderful botanical print, was great as a color guide for our collaboration, but it overwhelmed Cyndy’s first-draft layout.

I thought my quartet could tame Jenaveve, especially when I added a striped print from Westminster that coordinated wonderfully with all the elements.

First rehearsal: I’m jazzed by the design potential of the Kaffe Fassett stripe–interesting color play with careful placement.

Yeah, well, I’m on the fence now that I’ve sewn the botanical print to the quartet of trees. Dress rehearsal! Maybe there’s another design answer out there for me; I just don’t know it yet.

Maybe yes, maybe no? The lovely Jenaveve is a little loud.

Check out Cyndy’s redo.  I think she’s handled the design challenge wonderfully. As for the rest of the crew, time will tell.

Direct from Cyndy Rymer’s design wall: a much-improved rendition of “The Seasons.”

In theater lore, a poor dress rehearsal bodes well for opening night. I’m keeping that in mind as I work through my design challenge. Break a leg! (Not literally, just in theater speak.)

p.s. Quilting in the Garden is coming up in late September.  Join us!