Perfect Your Piecing: Pay Attention to Those Curves!

Interested in adding circles and curves to your quilts? Let me share a few simple and helpful tips to make the process a bit less stressful and definitely more successful.

Fan block uses strip piecing techniques with gentle curves.
Fan block uses strip piecing techniques with gentle curves.

My class on Craftsy this month is on curved piecing the Fan Block. It is a 9″ finished block, or 18″ when four blocks are sewn together.  The curves are gentle which makes this a good block for anyone new to piecing curves.

A few helpful hints:

  1. Accurate cutting is important. If you are tracing shapes from a pattern, book, or magazine, I suggest using a fine-line permanent pen to trace the pattern on to template plastic. Tape both the page and plastic to avoid slipping, and then carefully trace around the outline of the shape. (If you are making a full-size quilt and have many, many shapes to cut, consider having acrylic templates made at a store like Tap Plastics. Take one of your cutting rulers with you when placing the order so that they can see exactly what width acrylic you want used to make your template.)
  2. If working with template plastic, cut inside the marked line; cutting outside will add just a little extra that can affect the overall size of the shape. Next, use the template to mark the shapes onto the wrong side of the fabric. Finally, use a good, sharp pair of scissors to (again) cut just inside the marked line. If using an acrylic template, consider placing a piece of small, non-slip grip product on the backside. Place the template onto the fabric and cut around the template using a small, 28mm rotary cutter.
  3. Machine set up:
    1. Accurate ¼” seam allowance
    2. Needle-down option, if available
    3. Slow-speed control, if available
    4. Knee-lift feature, if available
    5. Stitching – Think “baggy bottoms.” It’s a funny term, but I always remember it. It simply means placing the fuller, bigger, puffier (or however you want to describe it) piece on the bottom, against the throatplate, when stitching. This will allow any extra fullness to work in while you’re sewing. If the fuller side is placed on top, it wants to creep, which will ultimately create pleats or puckers.
    6. Keeping the edges of the two pieces aligned, work slowly around the curve, stopping and adjusting as needed.
  4. Here’s a selection of online tutorials you might find helpful. They present different points of view, but I’ve always felt it is wise to experiment and find the technique that works best for you.

ConnectingThreads.com

CarolinaPatchworks.com

AllPeopleQuilt.com

Happy curved piecing everyone!

L1-Signature

Taking a Quilt Class: Paying Attention, Letting Go and a Giveaway

I enjoy being on the other side of the table and learning new skills that I can add to my toolbox for future projects. Every so often I am fortunate enough to take a class from one of the many talented quilt teachers offering instruction these days.

Little did I know when I signed up to take Lura Schwarz Smith’s five-day class, Imagery and Imagination: Inks, Paints, Pencils and Fun, at the Empty Spools Seminars at Asilomar in California, that there would be many more unexpected and valuable lessons awaiting me.

ESClassPic

In preparation for class, I was asked to bring either a portrait of a person or pet. I chose this sweet image of my adorable great nephew Eli. Thinking I would be piecing and appliqueing, I purchased a variety of flesh-colored fabrics, as well as stripes and other textural fabrics to use for his hair.

Eli1

The first morning of class was spent working through a series of helpful lessons in perspective drawing and shading.  I calmly completed the lessons, determined to soak up as much as I could. Next Lura walked us step-by-step through an exercise that would lead to drawing a face. I have never taken any formal art classes and can’t remember the last time I tried drawing faces–probably around third grade or so. This was quite a stretch for me, and definitely a humbling experience; we all laughed a lot at seeing our finished faces. I just can’t take these things too seriously. With Lura’s excellent instruction, patience and gentle encouragement, every student successfully accomplished the lesson. I was impressed at how well we all did.

Don't these look like fun?
Don’t these look like fun?

Next Lura demonstrated how to use the variety of inks, pens, pencils, and markers that she brought for us to experiment with. Again, this felt like being back in grade school. It was so much fun.

The next step was to trace the main lines onto a piece of transparency. This was the first step before transferring the image onto fabric.

The first step is to mark the main lines onto transparency.
The first step is to mark the main lines onto transparency.

After I transferred Eli’s shape onto my background fabric, I innocently asked Lura which techniques she preferred for appliqueing fabric pieces onto the background. She calmly replied that no applique was necessary. We would ONLY be using the paints, inks, pencils, and so on for our projects. Why did I think I would be piecing and appliqueing? Did I not accurately read the class description? Oh my goodness! I can still feel the anxiety coursing through my body at the thought of stepping way out of my comfort zone. What was I going to do? This was Day 1 and I’m feeling “Yikes! I don’t/can’t paint or draw. I have no experience with this. How am I ever going to get through the next four days?”

I was silent and dumbfounded. I remember leaving the classroom and returning to my room in an effort to calm my nerves. I had a choice to make and decided to let go of all the unrealistic expectations.

I returned the next morning with a good attitude and willingness to give this my best shot. After a few hours of playing with inks and colored pens I was pleasantly surprised to feel how relaxing and enjoyable the process had become. I worked slowly for several days, watching the evolution of my piece. Certainly it has more work to be done, but I must say I am quite pleased with the results, especially since this was brand new to me.

Enough rambling for now. Here’s what I accomplished by the end of the class. So what do you think? Not so bad for beginner. Lura has inspired me to purchase a sketchbook and try my hand at drawing. The possibilities are endless and I’m excited to do more.

Eli

Being primarily a traditional quiltmaker, I had decided that if I ever wanted to take a step into the art quilt world, I would like Lura to guide me. She is truly one of the most patient, kind, encouraging, inspirational, gentle (you understand what I am saying!) teacher I have ever had.

Please visit Lura’s website to see her beautiful work, as well as the Gallery of student work she has included. (Jennifer featured Lura in a past post here.) She travels extensively, so be sure to check out her teaching schedule. If you ever have the opportunity, I encourage you to take one of her classes. I promise you will love it and may even open up many doors to new forms of creativity.

Here is just a sampling of her work to whet your appetites.

Seams A Lot Like Degas by Lura Schwarz Smith
Seams A Lot Like Degas by Lura Schwarz Smith
Dancing Peace by Lura Schwarz Smith
Dancing Peace by Lura Schwarz Smith
Granite Shadows by Lura Schwarz Smith
Granite Shadows by Lura Schwarz Smith
Universal Language Dreams by Lura Schwarz Smith
Universal Language Dreams by Lura Schwarz Smith

bookcoverTogether with her talented husband, Kerby C. Smith, they have written Secrets of Digital Quilting: From Camera to Quilt, published by C & T Publishing. In addition to Lura’s instructions on inking, painting, and drawing on fabric, their book teaches you to easily create your own richly colored, unique fabric by printing your on photos on fabric. Lura and Kerby are generously donating a signed copy of their book for one of our lucky readers. Simply post a comment telling us why you would like to receive a copy by end of day April 19th and I will announce the winner in my April 23rd post.

Lura tells me that she has a newsletter coming out the same day that this post goes live. Be sure to check it out for updates on her teaching schedule.

That’s all for this time. Happy quilting, drawing, or pursuing whatever creative outlet you choose.

L1-Signature

Strutting My “Flying Colors” Quilts & A Giveaway Winner

I always like to open on a floral note--an anemone I photographed about 100 times trying to catch the incredible fuchsia color. This was the most successful shot.
I always like to open on a floral note–an anemone I photographed about 100 times trying to catch the incredible fuchsia color. Clearly, I’m having some colorful moments right now.

By day, I trade in words. I write articles for  print and online media to publicize a company. It’s only when I write for quilting magazines (and the blog) that I get to show more of myself. This month, I scored a trifecta in the latest issue of The Quilt Life: an article, a styled photo, and a pattern. It’s a story, more a tale with a lesson, about sending boys off to college with handmade quilts–the vagaries of helicoptering as experienced by one dedicated, devoted, yet slightly deluded, parent. (My children, of course, would question the use of “slightly.”)

Usually my son's feet peek from the bottom of my quilts in photos--this time he's the main feature in shadow form. The article in "The Quilt Llife" is about his (our really) nearly-disastrous college freshman move-in day.
Usually my son’s feet peek from the bottom of my quilts in photos–this time he’s the main feature in shadow form. The article in “The Quilt Life” is about his (our) nearly disastrous college freshman move-in day.

Magazine-J:  April 2013 The Quilt Life

The featured pattern is one of my favorite pared-to-the-essentials quilts. I like super simple designs in my own work and these days, with a mod aesthetic ascendant, that appears to make me surprisingly trendy.  (Cough. Cough.) I’d opt for timeless. Actually, the original version is a two-color quilt in sunny marigold yellow and bright white. I keep on thinking I should bestow it as a gift, but I can’t let it go yet. As it turns out, that quilt is included in a featured post in the magazine’s blog Quilt Views. The Quilt Life’s iteration is made from two fabrics as well, but it looks like I went on a hunt for perfect value progressions in blue and black and then painstakingly placed them in my design. Nope. Just two Gelato Collection fabrics from E.E. Schenck. Isn’t ombré fabric magical?

Quilt-J:  Flying Colors by Jennifer
The “masculine” version featured in the April 2013 issue of The Quilt Life.
An al fresco styled shot of the marigold yellow variation. Those Meyer lemons come from Darra's incredibly abundant tree.
An al fresco styled shot of the marigold yellow variation. Those juicy Meyer lemons are from Darra’s ridiculously abundant tree.

It’s the machine quilting of both quilts by the fabulous Deb McPartland that delivers a fillip of stylishness to the design. I never imagined that a wavy line paired with a stair step in a pantograph could deliver a textural element that would also play tricks on the eye. Deb told me I’d like the result and she was spot-on. The optical illusion is most apparent in the blue/black version, especially in the magazine’s flat shot.

Giveaway Winner Here

Clearly, Kaffe Fassett has fans out in the quilting world. Wow! My unscientific poll of the comments reveals that we LOVE his fabric and use words like vibrant, colorful, and cheerful to describe our passion for his designs. Some embrace his exuberant style, while others deploy his fabric in smaller doses. Whatever tactic chosen, we simply adore his work and are enriched by his designs in fabric and quilts. He’s truly fortunate to have such abundant fans and followers. Just a quick note, I used a Clearview Triangle™ Super 60 Combination Ruler to cut the triangles for my hexagons–boy do 60º triangles make rotary cutting life easier! And the winner is . . . Sandy, the March 20th birthday girl. Congratulations (& happy bday)!

p.s. I will share photos of the finished hexagon quilt, after Deb McP adds her special touch. Thanks for your kind words in the Comments–heady compliments indeed!

J-Signature

A Scraptastic Quilting Adventure + A Kaffe Fassett Giveaway Today!

A springtime posy to enjoy.
A springtime posy of magenta anemones, bicolor tulips, freesia, ranunculus, grape hyacinth, and alyssum.

Giveaway-GoldApparently, I’m all about my own quilting updates lately. This post? Same old, same old. You are, after all, visiting a blog called See How We Sew—we’ve got to show our handiwork sometimes . . . The fun part of this week’s post is that I get to invite someone along on my Kaffe Fassett ride! His U.S. publisher, TheTaunton Press, is offering a giveaway of one of Kaffe’s latest titles—see details below.

Inspiration-J:  UFO boxes stacked

Remember my Year of Finishing posts? It turns out that my hope for a single year effort is morphing into a multi-year, multi-pronged campaign: I’m finishing UFO’s and reducing my stash. Last October, I found a fun stash-busting project at Back Porch Fabrics and decided I’d jump in with scrap fabrics. Well, as one thing inevitably leads to another, bigger thing, I also decided to tackle a foundering Kaffe Fassett project from Kaffe Fassett’s Quilt Road. I figured if I finished that one first, then I could use the excessive number of leftover strips to fund the scrappy quilt. Makes sense, right? Start a new quilt, finish two? Just means more quilted love to spread around!

A harvest of hexies for “My Fair Lady” from Kaffe Fassett’s Quilt Road.

I confess, scrappy, stash-busting quilts present their own particular torments to me. It’s easy to get lost and stymied by too many fabric choices. I started Kaffe’s My Fair Lady with a few themed fabrics that I adored and then proceeded to design myself into a corner with hexagons that were overwhelming with saturated color or print.

Book-J:  Kaffe Fassett's Quilt RoadThe trial layouts were so ghastly I scooped up my hexies and stuffed them in a plastic box for storage. The funny thing is that when I lifted the lid a few weeks ago to restart the project, I amazed myself by selecting some very nice strip combos for the hexagons. Well, it seems that time is a healer indeed. What’s more, I only needed to make seven strip sets to finish the quilt top!

Even armed with my redeeming hexies, I faced the challenge of getting the weirdos and the pretty ones to play together in the quilt layout. The first draft was HIDEOUS! I could not achieve an effective distribution of the strong and weak ones. I ended up with cabals of saturated colors, repeats of strong prints, and dominating stripes. Every time I walked by my living room (my quilts-in-the-making live on the floor by my sofa) I kept getting sucked into weird games of hexie tic-tac-toe.

Block-J:  Kaffe Fassett My Fair Lady Hexagon

Tired of the madness, I pulled up the hexagons; sorted them into categories by color, pattern, value; and distributed them into seven piles—i.e. the number of rows in the quilt. Bingo! That was the key to dispersing the troublemakers. I don’t know why I didn’t do that in the first place. You’d think I’d listen to my own scrappy quilt-making mantra: random acts of randomness. Gotta admit I hijacked: “practice random acts of kindness.” Yeah, well, it’s not the most eloquent adaptation, but chanting it in my head does help me when I want a scattered pattern.

Giveaway Details Check Here!

Amidst this project I discovered a new Kaffe book that re-explores past designs with brand new colorways and prints. Lo and behold, the book includes a redo of My Fair Lady! Luckily for SHWS readers, The Taunton Press would like to share that Kaffe Fassett wonderfulness with us. So, to enter the random drawing, leave me a comment answering the following question:  What’s your fave Kaffe thrill? His fabric, patterns, or both? It’s another quickie contest so leave your comment by Thursday, March 21 and I will announce a winner in my upcoming Friday post.  Good luck!

Book-J:  Kaffe Quilts Again

I’m almost finished with my version of My Fair Lady and, after a rocky start, it’s turning out to be much prettier than I expected. As a bonus, the unfinished quilt top is fun fodder for digital camera experiments. Lurid and wonderful stained glass effects resulted when I photographed the reverse side against strong natural light (and a little too much wind) using a Super Vivid camera option.

Sometimes the backside, shot against strong light, is  even better than the front.

See ya Friday with a giveaway winner, J-Signature

QuiltCon 2013 Recap, Part 2: More Eye Candy from Austin

I’ve enjoyed reading the feedback on Part 1 of my post on QuiltCon 2013. My brain is still on overload from all the inspiration it managed to absorb during my time in Austin last month for the first major quilt show and conference sponsored by the Modern Quilt Guild. Ideas for creative expression in fabric were not just confined to the quilts either.

Look up . . .

Looking up: The stained-glass dome at Austin's Driskill Hotel
Looking up: The stained-glass dome at Austin’s Driskill Hotel

. . . look down:

Looking down: I see some interesting border possiblilties in this marble floor, also at the Driskill
Looking down: I see some interesting border possiblilties in this marble floor, also at the Driskill

Inspiration was everywhere!

This cool blue building was right across the street from our downtown hotel.
This cool blue building was right across the street from our downtown hotel.

Ah, but the quilts! Here are more of my favorites from QuiltCon 2013..

Broken Cogs, made by Jacquie Gering, machine quilted by Angela Walters (QuiltCon 2013, category: Applique, Large)
Broken Cogs, made by Jacquie Gering, machine quilted by Angela Walters (QuiltCon 2013, category: Applique, Large)
Oodalolly, made and machine quilted by Rachel Hauser (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Large)
Oodalolly, made and machine quilted by Rachel Hauser (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Large)
Pointless, made and machine quilted by Laura Bisagna (QuiltCon 2013, category: Applique, Large)
Pointless, made and machine quilted by Laura Bisagna (QuiltCon 2013, category: Applique, Large)
Cool Blue Kona Modern, made and machine quilted by Terry Aske (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Small)
Cool Blue Kona Modern, made and machine quilted by Terry Aske (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Small)
Broken Diamonds, made and machine quilted by Kati Spencer, QuiltCon 2013, 2nd Place (category: Use of Negative Space, Large)
Broken Diamonds, made and machine quilted by Kati Spencer, QuiltCon 2013, 2nd Place (category: Use of Negative Space, Large)

This next quilt was inspired by fabric the quiltmaker had used to reupholster an antique chair.

4 Birds, made and machine quilted by Trisch Price (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Small)
4 Birds, made and machine quilted by Trisch Price (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Small)
4 Birds, detail
4 Birds, detail

Some quilters created their own fabric. Kathy York used batik, bleach-discharging, and overdying techniques to create the fabrics for her quilt, Fresh Plus.

Fresh Plus, made, machine quilted, and hand stitched by Kathy York, QuiltCon 2013, Honorable Mention (category: Modern Traditionalism, Small)
Fresh Plus, made, machine quilted, and hand stitched by Kathy York, QuiltCon 2013, Honorable Mention (category: Modern Traditionalism, Small)
Fresh Plus, detail
Fresh Plus, detail

Colleen Wootten designed her quilt on the computer, had the design printed onto cloth, and then quilted the piece as you would a wholecloth quilt.

2 + 2, made and machine quilted by Colleen Wootton, QuiltCon 2013, 2nd Place (category: Minimalist Design, Large)
2 + 2, made and machine quilted by Colleen Wootton, QuiltCon 2013, 2nd Place (category: Minimalist Design, Large)

Some quilts sent a message. Elizabeth Hartman’s piece offered a friendly invitation.

Touch This Quilt, made and machine quilted by Elizabeth Hartman, QuiltCon 2013, for exhibit only
Touch This Quilt, made and machine quilted by Elizabeth Hartman, QuiltCon 2013, for exhibit only
Touch This Quilt, detail
Touch This Quilt, detail

Some quilts made a statement. In his quilt, In Defense of Handmade, Thomas Knauer imaginatively replicates the UPC code for a mass-produced Martha Stewart quilt sold at Macy’s.

In Defense of Handmade, made by Thomas Knauer, machine quilted by Lisa Sipes (QuiltCon 2013, category: Piecing, Large)
In Defense of Handmade, made by Thomas Knauer, machine quilted by Lisa Sipes (QuiltCon 2013, category: Piecing, Large)

There were group quilts . . .

Off the B. O. W., made and machine quilted by members of the Anchorage Modern Quilt Guild, QuiltCon 2013, 1st Place (category: Group or Bee Quilts)
Off the B. O. W., made and machine quilted by members of the Anchorage Modern Quilt Guild, QuiltCon 2013, 1st Place (category: Group or Bee Quilts)

. . . and challenge quilts. Given my on-going interest in small pieces, collage techniques, and the work of Paul Klee, this entry in the “Modern in Miniature Challenge” really appealed to me.

Ode to Paul Klee, made and machine quilted by Serena Brooks (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern in Miniature Challenge)
Ode to Paul Klee, made and machine quilted by Serena Brooks (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern in Miniature Challenge)
Ode to Paul Klee, detail
Ode to Paul Klee, detail

After two full days on the show floor viewing quilts, shopping the vendors, sitting in on some of the free hourly demos, PLUS taking in the sights and sounds of vibrant downtown Austin, it’s little surprise that my buddy Mary and I returned stimulated and footsore to our hotel each evening. Happily, our lodgings featured a spacious, relaxing 10th-floor atrium where we could kick back and recap the day’s adventures. But wait! Even there, inspiration beckoned.

The carpet in the atrium of our hotel in Austin. Do I see a quilt?
The carpet in the atrium of our hotel in Austin. Do I see a quilt?

I think I see a new quilt in my future.

L: Craftsy logo-LearnItMakeItIf you’d like to see more of what went on at QuiltCon 2013, you’re in luck.  Craftsy, QuiltCon’s media sponsor, is now offering a series of lectures recorded at the 2013 show, plus the awards ceremony for the QuiltCon 2013 juried modern quilt show FREE on the Craftsy site. Speakers include Heather Jones, Angela Walters, David and Amy ButlerJacquie Gering, and Mary Fons. Additional features include an interview with one of the show judges, Rashida Coleman-Hale, and reports from the show floor. Click here for the link to the free lectures and features.

tqslogo1And finally, I’d be very remiss if I neglected to mention that Saturday, March 16, is International Quilt Day! In honor of this special annual celebration,  The Quilt Show is celebrating International Quilt Weekend by offering 120 TQS shows FREE from Friday, March 15, through Sunday, March 17. Included you’ll find Episode 710: Conquering the Y-Seam Tumble with our own Laura Nownes, and Episode 805: Feedsacks, Fun, and Old Friends: Quilts of the 1930s, featuring me and my friend and co-author Chris Porter. That’s not all: there will be prizes galore, including the Grand Prize of a Bernina 550 QE!

Whew! That’s it. (And that’s a lot!) ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Reflections on QuiltCon 2013: Quilts and Other Inspirations (Part 1)

Texas, made by Dana Michaelson, quilted by Angela Walters; seen @ QuiltCon 2013.
Texas, made by Dana Michaelson, quilted by Angela Walters; seen @ QuiltCon 2013.

It’s been two weeks since I’ve returned from Texas, and I feel as if I’m finally beginning to digest all that I experienced at QuiltCon 2013. In short: FAB-U-LOUS! Not only were there lots of terrific quilts (and way-too-tempting vendors), but the host city of Austin was loaded with inspiration. I came home with so much good stuff to share that I’ll be dedicating both this post and my Friday entry to a colorful, quilt-loaded recap.

Check out this longhorn at Austin's historic Driskill Hotel. Yep, you know you're in Texas! (Gorgeous copper ceiling, too.)
Check out this longhorn at Austin’s historic Driskill Hotel. Yep, you know you’re in Texas! (Gorgeous copper ceiling, too.)

QuiltCon 2013 was the first-ever large-scale quilt show and conference to be sponsored by the Modern Quilt Guild. From its first meeting of 21 quilters in Los Angeles, the Modern Quilt Guild has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, with approximately 200 chapters spread throughout the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, India, Brazil, Ireland, the UK, and continental Europe. After a poll of its members, the MQG selected Austin as the site for QuiltCon 2013–the perfect opportunity for a midway meet-up with my longtime NC (quilting) buddy, Mary Underwood.

Even the walk from hotel to the Convention Center was ripe with inspiration. Downtown Austin features an inspiring mix of historic and modern architecture, often side by side.

architecture old and new

Once we got on the show floor? Here’s a sampling of what we saw.

Novel interpretations of traditional designs . . .

Double Edged Love, made by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, machine quilted by Lisa Sipes, QuiltCon 2013 Best of Show (category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
Double Edged Love, made by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, machine quilted by Lisa Sipes, QuiltCon 2013 Best of Show (category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
Double Edged Love, detail
Double Edged Love, detail
Neutral and Neon, made and machine quilted by Latifah Saafir, inspiration: traditional Clamshell pattern (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
Neutral and Neon, made and machine quilted by Latifah Saafir, inspiration: traditional Clamshell pattern (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
New Star Rising, made and quilted by Ben Darby, QuiltCon 2013, 1st Place (category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
New Star Rising, made and quilted by Ben Darby, QuiltCon 2013, 1st Place (category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)

Refreshing palettes of lime, orange, teal, bright lemon yellow, sparkling white, and lots and lots of gray . . .

Stringtastic, made and machine quilted by Nicole Neblett (Quiltcon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
Stringtastic, made and machine quilted by Nicole Neblett (Quiltcon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
Just One More Slice, made and machine quilted by Patty Simmons, inspiration:  crop circles as seen from the air (QuiltCon 2013, category: Piecing, Large)
Just One More Slice, made and machine quilted by Patty Simmons, inspiration: crop circles as seen from the air (QuiltCon 2013, category: Piecing, Large)
Lucky, made and machine quilted by Beth Copeland (QuiltCon 2013, category: Use of Negative Space, Large)
Lucky, made and machine quilted by Beth Copeland (QuiltCon 2013, category: Use of Negative Space, Large)
Squiders and Winks, made by Janet McWorkman, machine quilted by Laurie Vandergriff, inspiration: children's game, Tiddly Winks (QuiltCon 2013, category: Applique, Large)
Squiders and Winks, made by Janet McWorkman, machine quilted by Laurie Vandergriff, inspiration: children’s game, Tiddly Winks (QuiltCon 2013, category: Applique, Large)

Heavy echoes of the mid-century-modern aesthetic . . .

Trajectory #2, made and machine quilted by Megan Dye, inspiration: mid-century-modern boomerang motif, 1st Place, QuiltCon 2013(category: Use of Negative Space, Large)
Trajectory #2, made and machine quilted by Megan Dye, inspiration: mid-century-modern boomerang motif, 1st Place, QuiltCon 2013(category: Use of Negative Space, Large)
You rule, made and machine quilted by Brigette Heitland (QuiltCon 2013, category: Minimalist Design, Large)
You rule, made and machine quilted by Brigette Heitland (QuiltCon 2013, category: Minimalist Design, Large)
You rule, detail--great fabrics!
You rule, detail–great fabrics!

Wonderful improvisational designs . . .

Log Cabin Improv, made and hand quilted by Sherri Lynn Wood, 1st Place, QuiltCon 2013 (category: Handwork, Large)
Log Cabin Improv, made and hand quilted by Sherri Lynn Wood, 1st Place, QuiltCon 2013 (category: Handwork, Large)
Psychedelic Baby, made and machine quilted by Katie Pedersen, inspiration: a similar quilt called Fractured that appeared in Quilting Modern, co-authored by the maker (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
Psychedelic Baby, made and machine quilted by Katie Pedersen, inspiration: a similar quilt called Fractured that appeared in Quilting Modern, co-authored by the maker (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
I Don't Wear Blue, made and machine quilted by Cinzia Allocca (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Large)
I Don’t Wear Blue, made and machine quilted by Cinzia Allocca (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Large)

Artfully integrated negative space . . .

Natani Blanket, made and machine quilted by Katrina Hertzer (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Large)
Natani Blanket, made and machine quilted by Katrina Hertzer (QuiltCon 2013, category: Improvisation, Large)

Imaginatively conceived and beautifully executed quilting . . .

STELLA, made by Susan Strong, machine quilted by Ardelle Kerr, design source: Feathered Star pattern by Judy Niemeyer (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
STELLA, made by Susan Strong, machine quilted by Ardelle Kerr, design source: Feathered Star pattern by Judy Niemeyer (QuiltCon 2013, category: Modern Traditionalism, Large)
STELLA, detail
STELLA, detail

Even the ribbons were reflective of the Modern Quilting palette and style . . .

ribbon

That’s it for now. Don’t forget to check back on Friday for more quilts, inspiration, and news from QuiltCon 2013, plus a few special announcements ;-)

‘Til then, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Guest Post, Part 2: Sue Rasmussen’s Show & Tell

Today we welcome back quilt artist, author, and teacher Sue Rasmussen for the second part of her guest post. On Tuesday, Sue presented a tutorial on her technique for creating curved pieced landscape blocks and quilts. In this post, she shares a few of her beautiful quilts,  with insight into her inspiration and fabric choices. The floor is yours, Sue!

Our guest poster, Sue Rasmussen
Our guest poster, Sue Rasmussen

After reading my Tuesday post, you might wonder what drove me to come up with such a detailed approach for piecing a landscape or pictorial quilt. That’s easy: it’s because I simply LOVE pieced quilts! Pieced edges are clean and crisp, and don’t distract from the quilting or design elements as roughly finished edges will. I also like the way the softness of a pieced top allows the “mountains and valleys” made by those lovely quilting stitches to add dimension and detail to the quilt. What’s more, pieced quilts can be easily washed, and then folded or rolled for storage.

Many years ago, I began taking “landscape classes,” and learned several techniques from nationally recognized quilt artists such as Susan Turbak, Katie Pasquini-Masopust, and the late Joan Colvin. It was in a class with Ruth McDowell, however, that I found my true passion for pieced pictorial quilts–I fell in love with her simple piecing technique. Today I thought I’d share a few of my quilts and their birth stories, talking about the inspiration behind them and the fabric choices I made.

Beech Trees was begun in 1996, early in my landscape-quilt career. It is a fairly large quilt and uses a combination of curved and straight-line piecing. It was inspired by a friend’s photograph which I thought would make a great forest quilt. I was limited in the assortment of yellow-golds and cheddar-golds that I had at that time, and found myself driving to quilt shops and fabric stores miles away in search of anything gold.

Beech Trees (57" x 77"), made by Sue Rasmussen
Beech Trees (57″ x 77″), made by Sue Rasmussen

Ultimately, choosing the fabrics for Beech Trees was a real challenge, but I learned so much from this quilt. I used cottons as well as many dress fabrics in linen or rayon/cotton blends to get the variety of coloration I wanted in the tree foliage. I even used boy’s green-plaid boxer shorts for the bushes deep in the forest! I added the double-sided, dimensional leaves in the foreground to give the viewer a sense of standing on the rocks, looking in.

I made Cliff Maids  for my husband, who loves to hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. He takes wonderful pictures there, including everything from the granite boulders to rushing streams. This little 6″ flower shudders in the cold winds above 8,000 feet.

Cliff Maids, a wall quilt by Sue Rasmussen
Cliff Maids, a wall quilt by Sue Rasmussen

A pink dress fabric with black dots in my stash became the color inspiration for the flowers, and I added several plaids for the petals. The very narrow, pale-yellow inner border was my husband’s suggestion, and I think it sets off the flowers and defines the inner quilt nicely. The blue background, representing that brilliant blue sky found only at high altitudes, is a multitude of blue batiks. Many years ago, my friend and first quilt teacher, Margaret Miller, asked me, “Why use one fabric when you can use five, and why use five fabrics when you can use twenty?” That’s all I needed to hear to justify building my stash! I still follow Margaret’s advice in almost every quilt I make.

Maple Leaves was inspired by a windy day spent training our dogs in the local park. Beautiful, huge maple leaves were falling to the ground all around me. I gathered up a dozen or so, and when I got home, taped a large piece of paper to the floor, stood up high on a ladder, and let the leaves fall gently onto the paper. I traced the leaf shapes onto the paper to create a pattern.

Maple Leaves by Sue Rasmussen
Maple Leaves by Sue Rasmussen

Once again following Margaret’s suggestion (“more is better”), I incorporated a multitude of dark blue batiks in the background. The large-plaid border fabric in the lower right is from a man’s shirt I found at the local thrift shop for 50 cents; it’s turned up in more than one of my quilts. Sometimes that really ugly, too bright, or very unusual fabric makes the perfect zinger!

The latest quilt in my North American Wildlife series is Mountain Lion-I See You!  I wanted to achieve that intense look these magnificent animals display when they have spotted something.

Mountain Lion-I See You! by Sue Rasmussen
Mountain Lion-I See You! by Sue Rasmussen

Again, the fabric is really what makes this lady lion come alive. I used mottled browns from the Stonehenge Collection by Northcott Fabrics, and the Home in the Woods collection by McKenna Ryan/Pine Needles Designs from Hoffman Fabrics for much of her head, fussy cutting specific colors for the forehead. The granite boulders are made using the wrong sides of the fabrics. When I shop for fabrics, I always look at the reverse, which often can be used to achieve a subtle variation in value.

I am involved in raising and competing Golden Retrievers, and I teach all my puppies to retrieve anything that falls on the floor. Most of the time, this is really helpful, but it’s another story when I’m working on a quilt. I have a habit of tossing fabric on the floor when I’m done with it, and the dogs are constantly cleaning up after me. When this quilt was on the wall, my young golden, Ellie, proceeded as usual to practice what she had learned. She was so proud of herself, but completely unaware of what was lurking behind her. The lion looks as if she were sizing Ellie up for an appetizer!

VLUU L200  / Samsung L200

As you can see, I find inspiration for quilts everywhere. Any subject matter can be translated from a photo using my curved piecing method. I call my classes Landscape/Pictorial Quilts: Machine Pieced but really buildings, fruit, flowers, insects, animals, people, birds, or just about anything can be made into a quilt from a photo or printed image. My students have made quilts imspired by photos ranging from their childhood homes to koala bears they’ve seen on vacation.

If you would like more information on my upcoming classes, or are interested in booking a class, please visit my website for details and contact information.

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We hope you’ve enjoyed your visit with Sue. The good news is, Sue sent us so many of her wonderful quilts that we couldn’t fit them all in one post. Keep an eye out for another post from Sue in the upcoming months, and don’t forget: our friends at The Quilt Show are offering Sue’s episode–Picture This: Simplified Pictorial Piecing–FREE through Tuesday, March 12.

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Guest Post: Creating Curved Pieced Blocks and Landscape Quilts with Sue Rasmussen (+ a Special Offer!)

Many of you commented so favorably on Laura’s interview with the talented Sue Rasmussen last summer that we’ve decided to invite Sue back to share more of her quilting “wisdom” in a terrific two-part guest post. Enjoy Part 1 today (Sue’s ingenious technique for making curved pieced blocks and landscapes), and don’t forget to check back on Friday, March 8, for a “virtual quilt show”  featuring more of Sue’s amazing quilts.

Grizzly Bear by Sue Rasmussen
Grizzly Bear by Sue Rasmussen

And now . . . here’s Sue!

Hi! I’d like to introduce myself to you. My name is Sue Rasmussen and I LOVE to make pieced landscape and pictorial quilts. I made my first quilt about 35 years ago, and since then have made hundreds of quilts and many items of quilted clothing. Today, I’d like to share my approach to pieced landscape/pictorial quilts with you, and to introduce you to “curved piecing” with gently ‘bent’ seams. I will walk you through a very simple way of approaching this idea, in the hopes of changing the way you look at curved pieced landscapes, and perhaps enticing you to try it.

Have you ever noticed that when quilters hear the words “curved piecing,” they have that terrified ‘deer in the headlights’ appearance on their faces? I often see that look when I talk to quilters about sewing curved seams. They immediately think of a Drunkard’s Path block with past horror stories and frustration, so let’s just start off right here and now by calling the seams that I will teach you to do as “bent” seams. That doesn’t sound nearly so intimidating, does it?

Slide01

Look at this familiar Star block. Most quilters have certainly seen this block, and have probably made some quilts with this block in it. (OK, I added a line to divide the center square)

Slide02

You know how this block is easily broken down into sections that need to be pieced together first, before they can all be joined together to make the block itself. As you see, in the following illustration, there are five pieces in the bottom section, which are sewn together to create that section.

Slide03

If we take that same Star block and simply ‘bend’  each of those seams to create the little flower block below, we see that the little flower block is made up of the exact same number of pieces,  the same number of seams, and the same sewing sections. The ‘bent’ seams in this little flower block are so much gentler than a Drunkard’s Path, don’t you think?!

Slide04

Look at the ‘bent’ seam line between the background green and the purple petal. That doesn’t look too hard, does it?  Essentially, these are nothing but very elongated ‘S’ or ‘C’ curves.

In the Star block above, the five pieces that make up the bottom section – two green background squares, one green background triangle piece, one purple triangular piece, and one pink triangular piece– are now bent. They are shown below as their curved equivalents – three green background pieces, one purple petal, and one pink petal.

Slide05

I hope, by showing how similar these two designs are, I can dismiss any concerns you might feel about sewing with ‘bent’ seams, and perhaps encourage you to look at curved, pieced quilt blocks (and a landscape quilt) in a new light.

Next, I would like to introduce you to how I create a simple curved flower pattern.

Designing a Curved, Pieced Flower Pattern with Gently Bent Seams: A Simple Introduction

The concept of taking an image, a photo, or a drawing, and making it into a pattern using ‘bent’ seams might seem daunting and overwhelming. By sharing with you some very simple concepts, I can show you how to do this.

Let’s take the little tulip flower in the next illustration. As it stands here, this tulip must be appliqued (machine or hand appliqued, fused, glued or raw edge, etc.) to the larger background rectangle, in order to make a quilt block/mini quilt.

Slide06

If we want to translate this tulip into a PIECED tulip, we have to draw some lines on the pattern to create the seam lines. Using a pencil, we can draw and extend the lines of the stem and petals up and out to the edge of the paper (shown below with dashed lines). Just by drawing those lines, and extending them all the way to the edge of the paper, or the block in this case, we have created seam lines. See how the lines are slightly ‘bent’? No difficult, sharp curves here!

Slide07

By extending those seams to the edge of the paper, we have divided this tulip image into three sections, 1, 2 and 3 (shown below), which can easily be pieced together.

To help clarify the sewing order in each section, I have numbered the pieces in each of the three sections. For the top section, we would sew 1a to 1b along that seam line, and then add 1c to complete the section.  Section 2 consists of two pieces only–that’s simple! Section 3 has a few more pieces in it, but we just follow the numbering system, sewing them together in order.

Those three sections then get sewn together (section 1 added to 2, then 3 added to that) and “Voila!” we have a little tulip block.

Slide08

The curved piecing approach described here produces a quilt with clean, finished seams. No raw edges, or the stiffness found in a fusible quilt here! A pieced quilt is soft, washable, ‘fold-able’ and ‘roll-able’, unlike quilts made using fusing, gluing, or raw-edge techniques.  Curved piecing done this way gives you this option without taking that much more time or effort.

Of course, when we work on a larger, more complex image such as the Bitterroot Flower below, there are tricks and ways to draw and design the pattern that will allow for easy piecing of the sections. Basically, it comes down to translating your image or photograph into smaller sections for piecing.

Slide09

The best way to think of this piecing process is as comparable to sewing a sleeve into the shoulder seam of a garment. With proper marking, pinning, and–of course–matching the front and back notches on the pattern, the sleeve fits right into the shoulder. That’s exactly what we do in this technique to ensure that the pieces go together. Each template piece has several registration marks or ‘tic’ marks on it, which, similar to a sleeve pattern, make the pieces match up and fit together perfectly to create a flat seam.

Students in my one-day guild workshops learn the basics of this process using my pattern of a Single Tree Landscape quilt (below). In the 3-5 day workshops, I help students work with their own photo or image, taking it all the way from choosing the image, to designing the pattern, auditioning fabrics, and piecing the quilt. If you’ve sewn a sleeve into a shoulder, or made any kind of curved seam, then you can create your own, one-of-a-kind landscape/pictorial quilt.

Slide10

I hope you enjoyed this introduction to curved pieced landscape quilts, using gently bent seams.  Come by and visit my website at www.suerasmussenquilts.com, where you can find more examples of landscape quilts using these techniques. You will also find a listing of my upcoming classes. I look forward to quilting with you, and helping you make the quilts of your dreams!

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Thank you, Sue, for inspiring our readers with this informative tutorial! BTW, in a happy coincidence, Sue is the featured artist in the current episode of The Quilt Show, and–as a special gift to our See How We Sew readers–The Quilt Show is making Sue’s episode available for FREE now through next Tuesday, March 12. Here’s the special link: Episode 1205: Picture This-Simplified Pictorial Piecing. Check out the TQS site for more about Sue, including puzzles featuring her quilts, Woodland Doe and No Room for Tires.

See you Friday!

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Drafting, Part 2: Making an 8-Pointed or Lemoyne Star in Any Size

Using quilt blocks in a variety of sizes in one quilt can add so much interest to the overall design! One of my favorite pieced-block patterns is the LeMoyne Star, also known as 8-Pointed Star.  Here is one of my recent patterns called Oh My Stars that features this block in two sizes.

Oh_My_Stars

If you joined me in my previous post on drafting, you will note that this pattern falls into a category of it’s own called “8-pointed star.” Although it is not as straightforward to draft as other grid category patterns, with a little time and patience you will see how easy it is to make in any size.

You will need:

Graph paper – I use 8-squares-to-the-inch gridded paper as it corresponds to our cutting tools and makes it easy to add the 1/4″ seam allowance.

Drafting ruler

Pencil and eraser

Step One: Mark a square of of any desired finished size onto the graph paper. I am making a 5-1/2″ finished block for this sample.

drafting11

Step Two: Mark diagonal lines from corner to corner in both directions. Next, find the measurement from the center point to one corner. In this example, the distance is 3-7/8″.  Measure from each corner using this measurement to make tick lines along each side of the square, as shown.

drafting13Step Three: Connect the marks and draw lines exactly as shown in the next three diagrams. Notice that I’ve erased the diagonal pencil lines in the corner squares in the second diagram.

drafting14

drafting15

drafting16

Step Four: Erase a few more of the original lines as shown to reveal only the lines necessary for this block. You may find it helpful to mark around each of the three shapes and label them with letters. You can now determine the cut sizes of the fabric shapes as described below the diagram.

drafting17Shape (A) is easy – just add 1/2″ to the size marked on the graph paper.

Shape (B) is best cut as a quarter-square triangle so that the straight grain of the fabric falls along the outer edge of the block. To determine this measurement, simply add 1-1/4″ to the longest (diagonal) side of the triangle. Cut a square of fabric to this measurement, and then cut the square on the diagonal in both directions to make the four needed triangles.

Shape (C) is the measurement across the diamond, from side to side, exactly as shown, plus 1/2″. These are 45-degree diamonds, so you can simply cut strips the needed width and then use the 45-degree angle marking on your ruler to cut diamonds of the same measurement.
So now you have all the information you need to make these wonderful star blocks in any size. No longer will you be limited to what is available to you in books and magazines. If you need help with y-seam construction, please click here to view my tutorial on this technique.

As promised to my Craftsy students, I will be sharing the new blocks I am making each month. This month, I presented a drafting lesson for the Economy block. Here are my new samples in two different sizes. Be sure to check back at the beginning of each month throughout the year for additional blocks and techniques.

Economy block can be made in any size using simple drafting techniques.
Economy block can be made in any size using simple drafting techniques.
Here's the same block, reduced in size. I added outer triangles to make it larger.
Here’s the same block, reduced in size. I added outer triangles to make it larger.

I hope you have found this helpful. Happy block drafting everyone!

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