Confession of a Fabric Fanatic & a Giveaway

Ok, I admit it, I have way too much sewing and quilting stuff. What can I say? I love buying the latest fabrics, notions, and quilting books. However, I’m guessing that I’m not alone, as many of you who have been passionate and true to your craft are more than likely in the same boat. The reality is that there is more stuff than space conveniently allows. The big question is, what to do with all of it: continue storing it or find new homes for it?

Closet2

The recent challenging and painful experience of helping the son of a quilting friend clean out his mother’s sewing room has pushed me to deal with my stuff now. I don’t want anyone to have to go through the task this son is faces. A friend from the local guild and I went in and hauled it all out.

Now I have been collecting fabric, patterns, notions, books, and many other sewing and quilting-related things for over 30 years. I’m sure when I made the purchases I truly believed I would be using them in special projects . . . someday. Well, the reality is that many of those well-intentioned projects are still waiting to be started and, if my history tells me anything, it will probably never happen.

Starting to sort through a 30 year collection of books.
Starting to sort through a 30 year collection of books.

Fabrics have changed and so has my style. I’m looking at my collection with fresh eyes and have sorted everything into categories.

  1. What was I thinking? Time to find a new home for this one.
  2. I still love this fabric/book/tool, etc. and am not ready to pass it on. I will keep them.
  3. MUST keep this one, not that I ever intend to use it;  just has sentimental value so I plan to keep it forever.
This fabric was used in my wedding quilt that was made by my dear friends over 30 years ago. I will NEVER get rid of it.
This fabric was used in my wedding quilt that was made by my dear friends over 30 years ago. I will NEVER get rid of it.

After sorting through boxes, bins, bookcases, and baskets, I now have a pile of things that I am comfortable parting with. My suggestion is that, once you have designated it to the “find it a new home” box, don’t take a second look as you will more than likely change your mind.

I have been donating to local guilds for their outreach programs as well as to our local White Elephant Sale which benefits the Oakland Museum. I know they will both find good homes for everything.

Now that we are officially empty nesters, my husband has moved all of his collections into my newly married daughter’s previous bedroom. After 30 years in this business, I am excited to say I now have a dedicated sewing room.

After the sorting process is complete, it will be time to organize everything. I went to the IKEA website and found the perfect wardrobes (PAX System) to store all the keepers. It was actually pretty fun as there is a design program on the website that will allow you to move the parts around and put together a system that works best for your space as well as your treasures.

I’m excited to say that my cabinets arrived yesterday! Now, the fun, and the work begins. I’ll be busy the next few weeks with assembly and organizing.

closet4

Hopefully next month I can share some photos of the results of my of my hard work.

Giveaway-GoldSooooo, IF by chance you were to receive a box of fabric (not too big, I promise), what style and colors would make you happy? Just asking ; ).

If you’re interested in sharing your wish, please leave a comment by end of day Sunday, November 2nd and I’ll see what I can pull together for you.

Now back to purging and organizing. This feels so good. If you haven’t yet, you might want to give it a try!

Laura Signature

Wool Blossom Pillow – Taking a Side Trip with Wool Applique & an Accent Pillow

While working on the original design for our Quilt-Along, Blackbirds & Blossom, Oh-La-La! we got excited about all the possibilities for small projects utilizing the quilt’s design elements. Laura thought a little wool project would be wonderful to try. I’ve been collecting wool scraps and thought this would be an ideal opportunity for me to explore wool applique. I volunteered and I’m so glad I did!

Jennifer showed a fabulous way of showcasing the center wreath in a mini project last month.  Here is my chance to utilize the design motif of the side panels in a wool applique accent pillow that I call “Wool Blossoms Pillow”.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Choose your fabrics

The first step was to sketch my design and choose a color palette and fabrics. I discovered a yummy raw silk that was screaming to be the canvas for all my wool. Since I really didn’t know what I was doing, it seemed less daunting for me to tackle the vine first, then move on to the flowers.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Draw out vine shape

I sketched out the vine design directly onto freezer paper, matte side up.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Draw in Sweeping Motions

Here is a hint:  when drawing curves, do it in a sweeping motion. I like to think of my arm as a giant compass, with the stationary point being my elbow for large circles, and my wrist for small circles.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Mark where your can splice

Since the flowers will be covering many portions of the vine, I gave myself hash marks to break the vine into smaller sections. This is especially helpful when working with small amounts of wool that you don’t want to waste.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Cut your pieces

Iron the shiny side of the paper to the wool. Being a wool newbie, I was a little nervous about taking an iron to it. I used a very quick press and no steam, just enough heat to adhere the freezer paper. In retrospect, a pressing sheet would be useful, but it seemed to work fine without one.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Iron onto wool

Trim out the vine shapes. Another helpful hint: mark your shapes and the direction they will meet up to each other. I didn’t–ugh!

Wool Blossom Pillow - Cut Panel

Trim your canvas panel–oh goody, back to that raw silk!!! I cut my panel over-sized and will trim it afterwards. My final pillow is to be 10 x 14 inches and so I added a few inches to each side.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Glue baste

If you are a pinner, now is your time to shine. Use tiny pins and pin often. Since I am not a pinner, I got out my trusty bottle of Roxanne’s Baste it Glue and dabbed just enough to adhere my pieces. It’s best to keep the edges free of glue. You will thank me when you whip stitch your pieces into place. 

Wool Blossom Pillow - Layout

Back to the freezer paper to create blossoms and leaves. In keeping with the improvisational process of our Quilt-Along project, I simply cut out a variety of circles and leaves  and “played” with where to place them on my vine. As we mentioned in the Quilt-Along instructions, layering, variety, and balance are the keys to a interesting design.

Wool Blossom Pillow - Audition fabrics

After deciding on a layout, I auditioned different colors of wool. My leaves were mostly the same green as the vine, with a few yellow and dark greens thrown in. The flowers were a dark red, orange, rose, purple, teal, very light green, yellow,  and ivory. Don’t ask how I came up with that. I just rummaged through my stash!

Wool Blossom Pillow - Glue baste flowers in placeI loved my design!!!

Wool Blossom Pillow whip stitch

Next, I whip stitched it into place with a matching, fine embroidery thread.

Oodles of thread

Then pulled out my crazy collection of threads that I use for Big Stitch projects and started choosing colors and weights that would work for some hand embroidery work.

Wool Blossom Pillow - add some embroidery

Did I mention I don’t normally do embroidery? Well hop over to my personal blog, Pati Fried’s Blog in a few days and see what I came up with for finishing this Wool Blossom Pillow!

Have a wonderful week and happy stitching!

Signature Cropped

 

Lessons from the Mother of a Pinterest-Mad Bride-to-Be

My friend passed these along to me now that her wedding planning is behind her.
My friend passed these along to me now that her wedding planning is behind her.

 

Ahh, Pinterest: Is it a blessing or a curse? Events seemed so much easier thirty years ago when I was planning my wedding. When I looked for ideas and inspiration I simply purchased the current bride/wedding magazines to see what was in vogue. Today, with the popularity of Pinterest, the online pinboard, there are virtually thousands of photos arranged into categories. One can easily get lost for hours browsing through all the images.

My daughter is a very hands-on kinda gal and wants this event to reflect her creative esthetic. Her attention to every detail is admirable, but from my point of view, can be a bit daunting. I trust everything will be lovely and her hard work will yield a wonderful day filled with all the love and good wishes from her family and friends.

There are so many books and websites providing advice, but thought I would share a few lessons I’ve learned over the past several months. I hope they might be of some help for any of you who might soon be walking down this path.

  1. Start early. It’s never too soon to get started on those projects. Seems like the to-do list gets longer rather than shorter as the date approaches.
  2. Get organized and make check lists. It’s too easy to let some of the important details fall through the cracks.
  3. Don’t assume. Communication is important, right at the starting gate. Things have changed as far as who covers the expenses. Both the bride and groom need to talk with their respective parents and be clear on what the budget and/or contributions will be. This can avoid lots of confusion . . . trust me on this one.
  4. Lots of love and support. I had to constantly remind my self that this is not about me. I have had my day in the sun. I have learned to smile and keep many opinions to myself.
  5. Stay focused and have fun.  With many projects brewing all at once it can easily become overwhelming. A little down time, lively music or favorite movie playing can lighten the day.
  6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. In our case, we invited the mother of the groom to help with some of the projects. Fortunately she lives nearby. Not only was she a huge help but brought us closer together and made her feel like part of the event.
  7. DSC03382On a personal note, this little bottle has been a miracle worker.  My nails have not looked this good since I was taking pre-natal vitamins, some 28 years ago ; ).  And finally, SPANX! Need I say more?

That’s it for today. I’ll be back next month, hopefully sharing some lovely photos. As always, thanks for being here.

L1-Signature

Time for Quilt-Along Panel 1- Blackbirds & Blossoms, Oh-La-La!

Row birdhouses

Panel 1(A) applique'Panel 1(B) applique'

It’s time for the next step of our Blackbirds & Blossoms Oh-La-La Quilt-Along! I’m hoping you’ve had lots of fun working on the center wreath over the past few weeks.

Panel 1(A) When Jennifer handed off her beautiful center block to Darra and me for the second round of our Quilt-Along, we decided to create whimsical vines on our 4 side panels. Darra had a sketch that we both agreed would be the stepping off point for the 4 panels. Sketch The first 2 side panels, Panels 1(A) and 1(B), are minimal in design, while the panels we will cover next month, Panels 2(A) and 2(B), are more layered and bursting with blossoms. The design process is outlined below. Links you will need: use the Patterns tab for instructions on the side panels, leaf and circle template and panel 1(A) and 1(B) appliqué sheets as reference for the shape of your vines. Also, refer to the split leaf tutorial for a decorative leaf.

Let’s start with the minimal designs first, Side Panels 1(A) and 1(B).

 Panel 1(A) applique'     Panel 1(B) applique'

I urge you to play with your fabrics and shapes to create your own original design that plays well with the fabrics you have chosen and your completed center wreath block.

Supplies for Side Panels

To keep a flowing curve, I decided to cut my vines directly in the shape you see, not using the bias strip method. Feel free to use the method that works best for you.

 

Fabrics choices for flowers

Cutting Instructions for Side PanelsLeaf and circle samples

How-To's- Side Panels

Panel 1(A)          Panel 1(B)

Okay! You are halfway there! I will show you tips on Side Panel 2(A) and (B) next month. Be sure to share photos with us on our SHWS Facebook page and I will pin them to our Quilt-Along Pinterest Board!

And the winner is…

Congratulations to Mary Helen of Oregon for winning Annie’s Pouch Pattern in Laura’s post last week!

Have a great week!

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Quilting Wisdom: Collected Thoughts from See How We Sew

Probably one of the nicest aspects of sewing arts is our tradition of sharing knowledge and expertise. As we absolutely love to spread quilt making, sewing, and crafting know-how, here’s a few lessons and insights picked up by your “quilting sisters” at See How We Sew:

Inspiration-J:  Thread

Best piece of quilting advice you ever got?

Darra: It was a quote I saw in American Quilter magazine, probably in the late ’80s, in an article written by Joen Wolfrom. In it she said: “A finished quilt which has no imperfections, artistically or technically, is one that was created within the quilter’s comfort zone. No significant learning will take place when we stay in this safe place.”

I had never met Joen, but this quote struck an enormous chord with me.  I copied it down and taped it on the wall of my sewing room. When I began to travel and teach, I carried the quote with me and read it at the beginning of almost every workshop.

In 1993, I found myself teaching at a quilting event in Northern Virginia. Joen was one of the other teachers. We connected almost immediately, and—over the past almost-20 (!) years—have become close personal, as well as professional, friends. To this day, I still continue to try something new—however small—with every quilt I make.

Jennifer:  My bit of gathered advice is really a visual lesson I picked up back in the days when I did Publicity at C&T Publishing.  I came across, to my mind, one of the most insanely compulsive quilting titles ever, Stripes in Quilts by Mary Mashuta. I was dumbfounded by the attention to striped detail she displayed:  every striped block or strip was fussy cut to the nth degree for perfect matches. The resulting quilts were masterful, but I seriously doubted I would go down that road with my own quilts. Ah well, the years pass, experience grows, and a sense of craftsmanship blooms. All told, that book delivered a serious lesson in respecting a fabric’s print design–I think, I look, and I plan before I cut!

Laura: I often find myself in a stuck spot with either color and/or design. Years ago I remember my co-author Diana McClun telling me that if I was not pleased with my design it was often a matter of value. I always keep this thought in the back of my mind and try to include a variety of light, medium, and dark-colored fabrics. When I remember to listen to this advice, I am always happier with the results.

Pati: The best advice I ever got came in the form of a question while I was stressing over perfect center points on very small Lemoyne Stars. “When you are finished, and it is quilted and sitting on your lap, will you really care if it doesn’t have perfect points?” I go back to this each time I am worrying over something–quilting-related or not!

Inspiration-J:  Thread still lifeFavorite quilt book(s) for inspiration?

Darra: Any of the Quilt National books. Other favorites include Fabric Gardens: An International Exhibition of Quilts at Expo ’90 (catalog for a Japanese exhibit that traveled to The Dairy Barn in Athens, OH), Patchwork Pictures (the work of British fiber artist Edrica Huws), Landscape in Contemporary Quilts by Ineke Berlyn, and Quilts in Bloom (Blumen der Mainau; catalog for an exhibit in Germany).

Jennifer: Anything by Ruth McDowell—she’s a genius after all. Kaffe Fassett’s early hardback books with the photography by Steve Lovi are among my favorites for eye candy, I like the newer ones as well, but the original ones set the standard.

Laura: I often start with either Barbara Brackman’s Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns or Jinny Beyer’s The Quilter’s Album of Patchwork Patterns. I enjoy tweeking and changing some of the traditional patterns to suit my needs.

Pati: The Ultimate Quilting Book by Maggi McCormick Gordon. I curl up on the couch on a regular basis with this book for historical inspiration. I also tend to go to Folk Art and Textile books for inspiration. One of my favorites is Ralli Quilts – Traditional Textiles from Pakistan and India by Patricia Ormsby Stoddard.

QQQ3 cover

Book that most influenced you as a new quilter?

Darra: Pieces of the Past by Marsha McCloskey and Nancy Martin was a big one for me. I collected antique quilts before I became a quilter, and have been very inspired by them right from the start . . . especially scrap quilts. I was also very drawn to The Scrap Look by Jinny Beyer, Calico and Beyond by Roberta Horton, and Threads of Time by Nancy Martin. There have been tons of books written on scrap quilts since, but I still go back to these classics, over and over. From the first day I started teaching, Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! has always been my #1 recommendation for new quilters.

Jennifer: An old McCall’s series (1980′s) on quilting—my starting point—and then Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! of course.  Imagine my surprise, the authors are now my friends!

Laura: Shortly after learning to quilt, I was fortunate enough to spend 5 days at a quilting seminar with Mary Ellen Hopkins. She taught out of her book It’s OK if You Sit on My Quilt. The book was chockfull of patterns and techniques. I wanted to make every one. The seminar and book inspired me to share my new found passion with others in the classroom.

Pati: Definitely, the first edition of Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! by our own, Laura Nownes and Diana McClun. This was my first quilting book I had ever purchased. I referred to it so many times for myself or to teach others, that I wore it out!

signatures3

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Quilt Pattern Writing 101: Hints from a Semi-Pro With Knowledgeable Friends + Giveaway Today!

Pattern-J:  Pattern collage1-Giveaway IconHey, have you thought about designing and selling your own quilt patterns? It seems like more and more quilters are doing just that if the rising numbers of private label patterns available in quilt shops is any indication. With a digital camera and a bit of computer know-how, it’s becoming easier for us to develop patterns for sale. Distribution? Well, that’s another question altogether–a crucial one, yes, but today I thought I’d focus on Pattern Writing 101. I’ve got two pros at my back, blogging sisters Darra and Laura, for some good advice.

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway details featuring designers Carolyn Friedlander (Tangelo photographed above); Allison Harris of Cluck Cluck Sew (Chain Reaction photographed above as well); my blogging sister Laura (check her Etsy site) ; and our blogger emeritus Christie Batterman at Artichoke Collection!  

UPDATE:  Swirly Girls are adding 3 patterns to the giveaway opportunity so there will be 9 winners!!!!!

Test and Retest

Before you set to writing, you’ve got to test and retest the quilt project you’re patterning. It took me weeks to complete the first prototype of my Christmas tree skirt (detailed in my recent SHWS post), but it only took me a week to start and finish tree skirt 2.0! Definitely an improvement, but it took a major act of will to commence the new prototype after the first beat me up so soundly. Thank goodness I did it because the math worked (yes!) and I can now write the pattern confident that the measurements will yield a good result. Of course, whether I can guide a quilt-pattern buyer to that end depends on the quality of my instructions.

Working on the first Christmas Tree skirt prototype on the living room floor.
Working on the first Christmas Tree skirt prototype on the living room floor.

Do Your Homework

The best place to start Pattern Writing 101 is to look at quilting books and patterns and learn from those that have worked best for you.  What are the elements that helped you build your quilt?  Are there step-out illustrations and/or photographs that zero in on the construction process? Are they done in black/white or full color? These days, that distinction is less expensive so full-color printing just might be an affordable option.

How does the pattern designer break out the fabric requirements and cutting instructions? Separating these elements into separate boxes is useful for those who are taking the book or printed pattern into a store for shopping guidance. What are the headings commonly used?  Fabric Requirements, Cutting Instructions, Block Assembly, Quilting Assembly, and Finishing are typical for breaking down the instructions into easy-to-follow units. The more you study what is currently available, the better prepared you’ll be to tackle the writing.

Patterns on display at Cotton Patch, Lafayette, California.
Patterns on display at Cotton Patch, Lafayette, California–top row features Cluck Cluck Sew and bottom features SHWS alumnus Christie Batterman of Artichoke Collection.

The Written Word

Ah, here we have the heart of the process. When you write a pattern, you are guiding someone step-by-step to a destination. Action words–verbs–and simple sentences are the way to go:  Cut 5 blocks, 3 1/2″ x 3 1/2″. You’ll be tempted to add color commentary, but don’t. You can use a few text boxes to share your hard-won lessons, but don’t burden your reader with every last thought or nuance because you’ll confuse them and obscure the steps they need to take.

There are pattern-writing conventions and standard terminology that are very helpful to incorporate into your pattern. Recently, I asked Darra how to communicate the idea that the quilter would need to cut two mirror-image pieces of fabric. Simple:  cut one and one reverse. So, rather than tie yourself up in excess words, find the proper phrase and use it. Also, be aware of troublesome words and phrases. The misuse of template versus pattern is common. You use a pattern (paper) to create a template for cutting the fabric shape.

Quilt-book publishers tend to include additional instructions on quilting basics simply to be sure that the reader has the skills to build the quilts featured in their books. Nowadays they are publishing those fundamentals on their websites. Keep that possibility in mind when you write your pattern. You may not have enough space to detail every step, especially if it’s a standard technique, so you could send your pattern buyer to online resources to clarify how-to’s. Your website or blog can also be the place where you share hints and insights about your pattern, such as those fluffy elements you wanted to include in the pattern instructions. If you’ve got a lively bunch of fans, you could ask them to share images of the quilts they’ve made with your pattern on your website. It’s a great way to develop your brand–yeah, let’s use that au courant marketing lingo.

Yet more pattern fare from Cotton Patch--every niche in the store has a display!
Yet more pattern fare from Cotton Patch–every niche in the store has a display!

Live or Die By the Numbers–Grim, Yes, but That’s the Reality

Darra shared her most important insight with me recently. She says even the most-seasoned pattern designers fall prey to this inescapable reality:  base your measurements on the math and not the finished quilt. You can get so mired in the weird little tweaks and compensations you’ve made to test your prototypes that you forget that the quilt needs to work mathematically. The fact that you used a 1/8″ seam in one tiny spot to make your test quilt work is a problem when the pattern buyer expects a consistent seam allowance. Check your math. Recheck your math. Have someone else check your math. You definitely want to avoid coming up short; better to err on the side of a little too much.

That takes me to a related mathematical point. This I got from Gail Abeloe at Back Porch Fabrics. As Gail vets countless patterns for her store, she’s got a great perspective on patterns that tend to work for quilters. Hey, another idea in the research phase:  talk to shop owners about the best features of high-quality patterns. Back to Gail:  she recommends that designers give due consideration to the final sizes of their quilt patterns. It is so much easier for the shops to sell fabric, batting, and backing supplies for patterns that hit the standard sizes of packaged batting. You win when you please both the shop owner and the customer.

The End of the Advice + Giveaway Details

Glory be, I’ve written a treatise so I’m going to stop now.  Let’s hope I follow my own advice as I start writing the Christmas Tree Skirt instructions.

Well, dear readers, 6, make that 9, pattern winners here!  Leave me a comment by Thursday, October 3 and I will announce the winners this Friday.  Here’s your question:  Have you or or would you ever develop a pattern for sale?

Later, sewing gators!

J-Signature

Walk Your Stitches Right Out of the Ditch: Fresh Ideas for Quilting with a Walking Foot

DSC00174I’ve been working on a few samples for classes that I will be teaching this fall. One of the quilts is small, minimal in design, and has lots of creamy background fabric in Robert Kaufman’s Kona Cotton. I had a bit of inspiration from a quilt that I have admired for some time by the talented Stacey Sharman of Peppermint Pinwheels.

Stacey Sharman
What a beautiful quilt, Stacey!  Stitch Modern Flicker

 I love the quilted texture that evolves in the background of Stacey’s quilt. I had this quilt in mind while I was piecing my little quilt – so I left a lot of open background to play. Off I went, walking foot in hand . . .

DSC00175       DSC00171

DSC00172        DSC00186

DSC00179
Well, that was fun! Ready for it’s new home at Thimble Creek for their fall class schedule.

Spending the day playing with my walking foot piqued my curiosity. You are probably figuring out by now that I have an interest in the history of anything quilty. I found myself on Google, to see what I could find.

PicMonkey Collage

What exactly is a walking foot? It’s a presser foot with built-in feed dogs that grip and advance the upper layer of your fabric to move in unison with the underside fabric, keeping the layers from shifting apart as you sew. It’s great for pucker-free, straight line machine quilting, sewing together multiple layers, and–my favorite–sewing a binding to a quilt.

DSC00177

The walking foot is kind of the ugly duckling in our sewing tool box, isn’t it? It’s clunky, awkward-looking, and as far as I can see,  it has not made many innovative design leaps over the years. What has changed is the way we use it.

serendipitypatchwork
As Serendipity Patchwork wrote, “Quarter inch (or less) quilting with the walking foot.
Up and down, up and down, up and down…”

Today’s quilters are pushing it further and further out of the box to create beautiful patterns, textures and designs for their work. Let’s look at a few . . .

Some beautiful sample sheets I found on Sew Generously.

It’s amazing how contemporary an old technique can look with a little creativity!

6469886763_1b2291f8b1_z
Stacey Sharman shared  samples of a workshop by Mary Mashuta in her blog, On The Design Wall .

Looks like Stacey had a fun play day with her walking foot.

6469886883_53880385ef_z
Another sample by Stacey Sharman on techniques taught by Mary Mashuta.

I love the use of red thread!! It really shows off the different stitch designs.

Terri
Flock of Starlings by Terri Carpenter of The Quilted Fox
Terri 6
Back Detail of Invader Cupcakes by Terri Carpenter

Wonderful work Terri! Thanks for sharing!

PipinSiquim
Pipin Siquim has a great tutorial on how to do this.

Orange Peels! Wow! Wouldn’t you love to try this?

Here’s a whimsical pattern from Squiltz.

This would make a fabulous border. A great way to add movement and personality.

quilted-squared-spiral1
Another fun example by Squiltz.

Now we all know this is a lot harder than it looks.

Beautiful work by Canoe Ridge Creations.

This would definitely take some patience!

Weallsew
We All Sew has given me lots of ideas with this one!

This is simply beautiful. Very creative.

I hope that I have inspired you to pull that funny looking foot out of your tool box and include it in a play day. Keep us posted on what you discover!

There are a some great resources for you to explore further. I wish I would have discovered these before tackling my project!

31  Petite Design Co. - 31 Days of Walking Foot Quilting.

Made By Rae –  What is a Walking Foot?

So Crafty on Squidoo – What Can You Do With A Walking Foot?

Dog Named Banjo – Bernina 440 Walking Foot

Canoe Ridge Creations – Straight Line Quilting

Books you may want to explore:

Mary Mashuta’s Foolproof Machine Quilting

For Dummies Machine Quilting Tips and Tricks

Maurine Noble’s Machine Quilting Made Easy.

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Sprucing Up Your Sewing Space: A Design Wall Dream Come True!

Something wonderful happened last weekend in my sewing room, and I’m so excited, I just had to share. I now have a real-live, large, and permanent design wall!

My new design wall--inspired by Jennifer's drive to finish her UFOs, I've pulled a few off the shelf myself!
My new design wall–inspired by Jennifer’s drive to finish her UFOs, I’ve pulled a few off the shelf myself!

For years, given the space constraints of my combined sewing room/office (and occasional guest room), my design wall consisted of a piece of “tired” white batting attached to the wall with push pins. Yes, it worked, but I dreamed of something more substantial. When Brooks and I became empty nesters earlier this year, the opportunity to expand my workspace became a real possibility, and I was all over it.

First stop: the local home-improvement store, where I purchased four 1″-thick, 2′ x 4′ sheets of insulation board. Back home, I taped the boards together in pairs on the long edges using clear packing tape. Then, with the help of my hubby (and a level), I affixed the two newly joined boards flush to each other on the wall with Velcro (!), which I placed in 4″ strips on the corners and in the center of each two-board panel and in corresponding, pre-measured places on the wall. I covered the whole thing with a large piece of white cotton batting, which I secured to the outside edges with T-pins. Voila! The finished board measures 8′ across by 4′ long . . . and I love it!

Velcro, T-pins, and cotton batting
Velcro, T-pins, and cotton batting

I got the idea for the Velcro–which I also found at the home-improvement store–from my friend, Chris Porter. It was so much easier than using slats, nails, hooks, screws, or any other hardware-y things. I suspect the wall may need a little touch up when I remove the boards to move someday, but the areas affected by the Velcro are small . . . and I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

A few tips: If possible, purchase insulation board with no writing on the front. It wasn’t until I had the boards up and covered that I discovered their bold, blue writing showed through the batting. A coat of white primer fixed that, but you can avoid the extra step if you start with a clean slate. Also, be sure the batting is cotton; fabric pieces have a tendency to slip off poly or poly-blend surfaces. You can substitute white cotton flannel or felt if you prefer, but I found a queen-sized batting did the trick–with leftovers for other small projects. Finally, do try the T-pins. In my experience, staples just didn’t work.

That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014_2Before signing off, I’m happy to announce that Cathy Gunstone is the winner of  the That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014 from my last Friday’s post. Her favorite month is August “because the weather is usually at its Puget Sound best and the mountains and wildflowers are glorious.”

It was so much fun to read the comments! Every single month was noted, with October garnering the most votes by far. Seems we love those autumn days! July came in second, barely nudging out May and September.

Just for fun, I asked my blogging sisters their favorites. Laura picked June because it’s her “birthday month, and also because school is out, it marks the beginning of summer, and vacation trips begin.” Jennifer chose “March, because it’s the month of seasonal change. Nature starts emerging from Winter with buds and blossoms. It’s a time of renewal for me.” As for me, I’m with those October folks. I grew up on the East Coast, and autumn has always been my favorite season.

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Extra! Extra! Five Fave (and Fab) Tips For Quilters

This is the first summer in three years that I haven’t spent heavily involved in writing, making quilts for, or preparing to promote a new quilt book. Co-authoring and releasing two books in back-to-back years–A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue in spring 2011 and Cuddle Me Quick: 11 Baby-Quilt Designs in autumn 2012–was a challenge, but it was also lots of fun, especially since I shared the experience with my friend, Christine Porter.

Back-to-back books--whew!
Back-to-back books–whew!

After editing dozens and dozens of quilt books over the years, I’m well aware that quilters love tips, and (encouraged by our publisher, Martingale & Company) Chris and I were determined to add lots of tips to our books. In this post, I share five of my favorites. Some relate to technique, some to design. Hopefully, you’ll find a “little nugget” here to enrich your next quilting experience.

Tip #1: Flip It! Sometimes the “right” side is the “wrong” side. If a fabric you’re considering doesn’t provide the proper degree of contrast, flip it over and consider the reverse side. Often the value (or the blurred motif) on the back of a print is just different enough to make it the perfect choice.

Fabrics in the top row are shown right-side up; fabrics in the bottom row are the same fabrics shown wrong-side up; sometimes the difference is subtle, sometimes dramatic.
Fabrics in the top row are shown right-side up; fabrics in the bottom row are the same fabrics shown wrong-side up; sometimes the difference is subtle, sometimes dramatic.

I know that some quilters worry that showing the “wrong” side of the fabric will be too obvious, but I’ve never found this to be so. I used the wrong sides of many blue prints to achieve the subtle gradation in value essential to the overall design of my quilt, Woodlands. Can you spot them in this photo?

Woodlands, 51" x 51", pieced and hand quilted by Darra Williamson. I made this quilt in 1992, so I've been flipping fabrics for at least 20 years!
Woodlands, 51″ x 51″, pieced and hand quilted by Darra Williamson. I made this quilt in 1992, so I’ve been flipping fabrics for at least 20 years!

Those small pieces of “flipped” fabrics are hard to identify, even with close scrutiny.

Woodlands by Darra Williamson; detail. Even up close, it's difficult to identify the reverse-side fabrics (more than one in this photo).
Woodlands by Darra Williamson; detail. Even up close, it’s difficult to identify the reverse-side fabrics (more than one in this photo).

Does this help?

The front side of the original blue fabric (shown here as two small blue squares) was too dark to continue the value flow I was after. The reverse side (seen in the block itself) worked perfectly.
The front side of the original blue fabric (shown here as two small blue squares) was too dark to continue the value flow I was after. The reverse side (seen in the block itself) worked perfectly.

Tip # 2: Lose the Static! If your quilt is made of repeating blocks that “aim in one direction,” try reversing the direction of a few blocks. By interrupting the expected flow of the pattern, you’ll add movement to what might otherwise be a static design.

Little Sailor, 40" x 50", designed and made by Darra Williamson and machine quilted by Chris Porter, from their book, Cuddle Me Quick. Look closely: three boats sail against the wind.
Little Sailor, 40″ x 50″, designed and made by Darra Williamson and machine quilted by Chris Porter, from their book, Cuddle Me Quick. Look closely: three boats sail against the wind.
Little Sailor, detail; one of three boats going the other way!
Little Sailor, detail; one of three boats going the other way!

I used the same design trick in my quilt, Rubber Duckies, which you can see by clicking here. Fun!

Tip #3: No-Fuss Finishing! You’ll love Chris’s technique for finishing your bindings without the fuss of pins or clips. Sew the binding to the front of the quilt as usual, and then use a medium-hot iron to press the binding away from the quilt center. Turn the quilt over and adhere 1/4″-wide fusible tape (we both favor Lite Steam-A-Seam2 Double Stick fusible tape) within the seam allowance on the back of the quilt. Remove the protective paper from the tape, fold the binding to the back of the quilt, and press, mitering the corners. Finish by hand sewing the binding to the back of the quilt.

Once you've tried it, you'll love Chris's no-pin, no-clip binding trick.
Once you’ve tried it, you’ll love Chris’s no-pin, no-clip binding trick.

Think “Outside the Box!”  Seam lines are arbitrary. Experiment with allowing an applique shape or motif to extend slightly beyond the block or quilt-center boundaries. With just this one simple adjustment, you’ll create unity between adjacent elements and add immediacy and “life” to your quilt.

Sunbonnet Sue at the Beach, 22" x 26", designed and made by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Chris Porter, from their book, A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue
Sunbonnet Sue at the Beach, 22″ x 26″, designed and made by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Chris Porter, from their book, A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue
Even such a tiny, but effective,  adjustment can draw the viewer in.
Even such a tiny, but effective, adjustment can draw the viewer in.

Tip #5: Bargain Backings! Check out the sales bins for bargains when visiting your local quilt shop. The remnants of theme and novelty fabrics often turn up there at deeply discounted prices.

Some of the backing fabrics for our Sunbonnet Sue quilts. You can often find these types of prints in bargain bins and on sale tables.
Some of the backing fabrics for our Sunbonnet Sue quilts. You can often find these types of prints in bargain bins and on sale tables.

Here’s one more tip, and this one doesn’t come from any book. It comes, instead, straight from Laura, Jennifer, and me to you . . .

One lucky reader will receive all of the items in this super giveaway!
One lucky reader will receive all of the items in this super giveaway!

Tip #6: Don’t Miss This! If you haven’t already, please take time to check out the very inventive, four-line ditties submitted so far as entries in the Winner-Takes-All mega giveaway in our June 28 post. (You’ll find them by clicking on the link above, scrolling to the bottom of the post, and then clicking on Comments.) Good news: There’s still time to enter! The deadline is Thursday, July 11, noon (PDT), with the winner to be announced on Friday, July 12. Who knows? Your words could be winners!

That’s it for now. Til next time, happy stitching.Darra-signature