Looking to Nature for Inspiration

I spent the last few days with friends in Lake Tahoe, California at a little quilting getaway. As always, the views were breathtaking.

Lately, I have been looking to nature for interesting patterns and images for inspiration  While in Lake Tahoe,  I found myself fascinated by the color, light and texture around all around me.

Lake Tahoe 3

Layers of texture and patterns.

Lake Tahoe 4

Reflective light.

Lake Tahoe 6

Interesting color palette!

Lake Tahoe 2

A few really windy days took the lake from calm to rolling waves. The lapping waves on the shore began to sound more like the rolling waves of the ocean.

Lake Tahoe 1

Lake Tahoe 5

Bright blue sky, gray textured tree bark, and a bazillion shades of green in the pine needles.



Add the slightest touch of red from the spring buds for accent.

Lake Tahoe2

I’m inspired! If you would like to get a peek at the quilts that I worked on while in Tahoe, visit Pati Fried next week. I will be posting lots of eye candy.

Have a great weekend!

Signature Cropped

Posted in Inspiration | 1 Comment

Sneak Peek on Our Shimmer Blog Hop Project

Collaboration is always fun – especially at See How We Sew. We are having a creative surge, working on our upcoming project that will be a part of Jennifer Sampou’s Blog Hop to introduce her beautiful new line, SHIMMER. #shimmerfabric @jennifersampou @robertkaufman

I thought it would be fun to share a sneak peak of our Top Secret Shimmer project!

Now, if you are as excited as we are, be sure to check back as there will be more information to come within the next few weeks.
 The two winners of the Pop Rox fabric packs from Laura’s previous post are Shirley Schmeyer and Donna W. Congratulations ladies, enjoy the fabrics.
Have a good week!
Signature Cropped
Posted in Fabric, Patterns, Projects | Tagged | 2 Comments

Pop Rox, Carol van Zandt’s New Fabric Line, Part Two + Giveaway

Welcome back to Part Two of my interview with fabric designer, Carol van Zandt.

While doing a bit of homework on Carol, I learned that she sewed clothing as a child, and later created home decor. Designing fabric inspired her to make her own quilts.  Here’s a bit about her personal quilting experience.

Are you also a quiltmaker? If so, what style of quilts do you enjoy making?

Carol van Zandt's first quilt.

Carol van Zandt’s first quilt.

I just started quiltmaking in the last eighteen months, inspired by all the people I have met making projects with my fabric.  A trip to an East Bay Modern Quilt Guild meeting tipped me over the edge. I was blown away by the work they were doing. It just hit my sweet spot design wise.  I am inspired to do more improvisational quilting and, though I sometimes plan a basic type of composition with a sketch, I am having a great time quilting for fun and making whatever I want unconstrained by market demands.

Honestly, traditional quilting can be jaw dropping and inspirational, but also very intimidating. With improvisational quilting I can stretch my creative wings by means of my penchant for abstract design coupled with my apparel-sewing skills. I am just beginning on this journey and want to savor every step and I suppose, in years to come, I will probably do a lot of different kind of quilts. I also design for the new collections I send into Andover to be used as a free downloadable pattern for the collection.

Soon though I will actually tackle quilting with my own fabrics, but I don’t want to give up the joy of networking with other quilters and sewists, sharing my fabric with them, and seeing what comes out! It is so thrilling and I learn so much seeing my designs in real life applications through other people’s projects.  I pay close attention to their fabric selection and use.

Please tell us about your new line of fabric?

My new line is called Pop Rox by Andover Fabrics and will be in stores in the next month or so. It’s a very fun, geometric line in two colorways. It is simple and modern and very usable. One colorway is more pop with a lot of white and the second is a very different neutral handsome color way with browns and blacks and beiges.  Both go great with solids.  The main design is a border print with an ombre effect.

Pop Rox by Carol van Zandt for Andover Fabrics.

Pop Rox by Carol van Zandt for Andover Fabrics.

PopRox by Carol van Zandt for Andover Fabrics.

PopRox by Carol van Zandt for Andover Fabrics.

 Do you have product/kits for sale? If so, where can they be purchased?

I carry my fabric lines in my Etsy shop. I didn’t put Tokyo Rococo or Licorice Fizz in there until they had been out for a year so as not to compete with the independent quilt stores. I wanted people to have access to it after it sold out of the stores, or if they have sewn with it and wanted more.  It is always a big complaint from quilters and sewers that they can’t find favorite fabrics after they leave stores.

 I also have started to sell kits for some of the projects people have designed with my fabric where I split the kit with the project pattern designer. I will be adding a number of kits for Pop Rox when we have them all ready. I will probably also sell fat quarter sets in advance of the year for Pop Rox, but if people want yardage, keep your local quilt stores in business!

Here are some of the creative projects that have been made using some of Carol’s fabrics.

Up, Up and Away by Patchwork Posse using Tokyo Rococco.

Up, Up and Away by Patchwork Posse using Tokyo Rococco.

Gypsy by Creative Sewlutions using Tokyo Rococco.

Gypsy by Creative Sewlutions using Tokyo Rococco.

Kaleidoscope by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes using Licorice Fizz.

Kaleidoscope by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes using Licorice Fizz.

Caroline Dress by Welcome to the Mouse House using Pop Rox.

Caroline Dress by Welcome to the Mouse House using Pop Rox.

I just visited Carol’s blog today and enjoyed reading about her recent Improv Round Robin experience at the Stitch Modern 2014 show. Take a peek here. I’m sure you will agree that it looks like a fun and creative workshop.

Giveaway-GoldMany thanks again to Carol for sharing the story of her creative journey in fabric design. As promised, she is offering two fat packs of Pop Rox to two of our lucky readers. If you are interested in putting your name in the hat, simply leave us a comment by end of day, March 10, telling us what project you would like to make with the fabrics. The winners will be announced in Pati’s March 11 post and mailed as soon as they are available.

Carol’s Website:  www.carolvanzandt.com

Carol’s Blog: www.theplaidportico.com

Carol’s Etsy site: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CarolVanZandtLLC

Until next time, happy creating everyone!


Posted in Fabric, Guests | Tagged , , | 33 Comments

“Go for It!” Says Fabric Designer Carol van Zandt — Part One

CarolVanZandt_headshotHave you ever thought you might like to try your hand at fabric designing? Jennifer touched on this subject in an earlier post while writing about Spoonflower, a popular online design site. I have the pleasure of knowing the talented fabric designer Carol van Zandt. Carol has been designing fabrics for Andover Fabrics and recently released her new line, Pop Rox. I’m happy to say that I received a packet of these beautiful little gems and am in the process of making a new sampler quilt for an upcoming class.

Since Carol was kind enough to provide me with a wealth of information about her background and design experience, and many photos of projects made using her lovely fabrics, I have decided to break this post into two parts. Be sure to check back on Friday for the second half of this post.

Being curious,  I first asked Carol about her background in color and design. Here’s her response.

 Before I went into fabric design I was a fine artist. In college I majored in studio art and initially focused on printmaking and ceramic sculpture. That led into a long period of painting on paper using mixed media—watercolor, acrylics, and inks. Then we moved to Japan and I studied Japanese calligraphy and sumi-painting seriously for ten years and incorporated that into my paintings. I’ve had about 15 solo shows over the years and have participated in 30+ group shows. In addition to my fine art I have also painted and sold silk scarves, sewn pillows, and made jewelry.

Strawberries: sumi painting scanned into Photoshop to create pattern. By Carol van Zandt.

Strawberries: sumi painting scanned into Photoshop to create pattern. By Carol van Zandt.

After admiring and then collecting select textiles in Asia and Europe during our travels, I signed up for the program at The Institute for Textile Print Design in Berkeley, CA when we moved back to the States. I spent a little under three years in an intensive study of classic textile design and surface pattern design with a strong emphasis on color. I also taught some of the painting courses at the school for three years. When I finished I put together three collections in three color ways and went to International Quilt Market and showed them and ended up signing with Andover Fabrics, Inc.

Hand painted designs by Carol van Zandt done during classic textile design training.

Hand painted designs by Carol van Zandt done during classic textile design training.

None of those initial three collections went to print. We ended up going with a newer collection. My style has evolved so much since then . . . and still is!  I also license my designs for other products so I spent those first couple of years designing a wide variety of collections to have a good base to work from.  It was great to really throw myself into it and worked to get a lot of the kinks out and develop efficient work flows, and define my style. Design design design!

Licensed products using the designs of Carol van Zandt.

Licensed products using the designs of Carol van Zandt.

Here’s Carol’s response when asked to give advice to anyone interested in designing fabric.

If you are interested in designing fabric, go for it!  I would say this for any creative endeavor. If you are inspired, go forth. These days it is so much more accessible. With Spoonflower and other print-on-demand places, you can put your designs on fabric and sew with it yourself or share with your friends and family, or even put it out there for the public to buy through their site.

You may find it is more difficult than you thought, as it can be quite involved designing fabric. You will need to learn  Photoshop and/or Illustrator. You do need to learn to do repeats. There are plenty of resources for these things. I list some on them on my website here.

Connections: sketch and final pattern in Illustrator by Carol van Zandt.

Connections: sketch and final pattern in Illustrator by Carol van Zandt.

If you are interested in creating a fabric design collection for the quilting and sewing industry, study the collections that are out there to know what makes a good collection.  If you sew, work with one collection exclusively on a project, to understand what makes it work well together.  Make sure what you are doing is either unique or has a signature that relates back to you or the quilts or other creative work you do.  If you already have a successful blog, pattern business or following as a teacher or author, the fabric companies will collaborate with you more readily. There is a lot of design out there and a lot of people that want to put their art on fabric, but the companies are always looking and always looking for something new.   So it’s a bit of a matter of having the right kind of collection at the right time for the right company. 

Fleur: sketch and final pattern in Illustrator by Carol van Zandt.

Fleur: sketch and final pattern in Illustrator by Carol van Zandt.

In a nutshell, design fabric for fun at first, then if it clicks, up your game and create a collection.  If you then want to take it further and submit to fabric companies, put together a very professional presentation. Be prepared for rejection, then be surprised if something works. It is very competitive and it doesn’t always make much money by itself, but can dovetail nicely into related creative endeavors. Most fabric designers have multiple streams of income, whether a pattern business, teaching, writing books, licensing their art elsewhere, or being a paid designer elsewhere, heck-real estate, shopkeepers, dental hygienists, doctors, lawyers, etc. 

All creative go through times when we get “stuck” on a project. Here’s what Carol does to work through it.

Stuck, stuck, all the time!  Once I realize I am actually stuck, I just move on to something else, then I have fresh eyes when I come back to it.  Often I get stuck on the most complex design of a collection, so I just make myself goals of rendering 1-2 motifs a day and then work on simpler coordinating designs that might go with it. So as the main design is taking shape the collection around it takes shape too, giving it more momentum.

Some of Carol's many textile design books. Always a great source for inspiration.

Some of Carol’s many textile design books. Always a great source for inspiration.

I know from experience that some designs just hit a dead end so I always overshoot and have several designs that don’t end up making it into the collection.  It’s always good to cull the ones that don’t fit as well.  Let’s face it—it’s always nice to have things to choose from!  It is also super fun editing the collection near the end, getting feedback from people and tweaking colors and scale, and then sometimes the fabric company may suggest further edits based on what they have been hearing.

I have reused designs, sold them, licensed them to an unlikely product, or built new collections around them or add them to another collection after resizing and recoloring. Nothing is a waste. If a design is in limbo, six months later you might decide to simplify it, or add something to it and it might be a real winner. If a collection doesn’t get onto fabric, it may find another home someday, or with a redesign, might still yet make it on to fabric. 

Pop Rox fat quarter packs by Carol van Zandt for Andover Fabrics.

Pop Rox fat quarter packs by Carol van Zandt for Andover Fabrics.

That’s it for today. Be sure to check back on Friday to learn about Carol’s favorite style of quilts, and PopRox, her new fabric line, and her generous giveaway of two fat-quarter packs. You won’t want to miss this one!

In the meantime, please enjoy visiting Carol at one of these  sites.


Blog: www.theplaidportico.com

Etsy site: https://www.etsy.com/shop/CarolVanZandtLLC

Have a creative week everyone!


Posted in Fabric, Guests, Inspiration | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Three Great Books for Avid Quilters & Sewists–Our Readers Weigh In

You might remember we sent out an invitation to our SHWS readers for volunteer book reviewers. Well, the results are in and their reviews are ready.  Take a bow Tana, Lynn, and Mary:

Making Fabric Jewelry by Martha Le Van   •   Lark Crafts

Screen shot 2014-02-15 at 9.59.07 AM

The very first chapter of Making Fabric Jewelry is filled with vital information that every crafter will find useful. Marthe Le Van gives a fabulous overview of the tools and skills that are used for a jewelry designer’s projects. She begins with the basics, or what she calls the first pleasure, the fabric. If you don’t know your tulle from your duck, this book is the place to start. The first 36 pages cover fabric, stitches, and a jewelry primer on findings, wires, and beads. I am sure I will refer to this information often. I am delighted with the variety of projects in this book and the inspirational photos of similar pieces made by other designers. All the full-color photos are large and include the artist’s name and materials used. I can hardly turn the page without new ideas popping into my head. The techniques for assembling the jewelry are well written and easy to follow. Ms. Le Van even includes tips that range from selecting colors to threading needles. (I was surprised to see five ways to thread a needle.) My shopping list is made and I can’t wait to start the next project.

Tana Doss   •   http://www.gotitfromgranny.blogspot.com/

Tana's wonderful rendition of a project from the fabric jewelry book.

Tana’s wonderful rendition of a project from the fabric jewelry book.

 ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥

Patchwork Please! by Ayumi Takahashi   •   Interweave/F+W Media

Screen shot 2014-02-15 at 9.55.42 AM

I was excited to review Patchwork Please! because I saw so many pretty projects during the Zakka Along 2.0 last fall. I am a novice at sewing, and while the projects I saw floating around the Internet last fall were pretty and caught my eye, I was not sure that they were things I could make. I am a visual learner, so I also have been skeptical about sewing books, but let me tell you–Ayumi’s book is full of tips, and the tutorials are simple and very easy to follow. The book contains 140 pages, and the first 30 pages are dedicated to tips, tools, and techniques which cover the basics used for all the projects. There are beautiful photos of the 19 projects, each made with the cutest and prettiest fabrics. You’ll want to do every one! Each tutorial is rated for difficulty and broken down, step by step, with figures to help visual learners like me. I decided to jump all in and tackle the triangle patchwork box pouch, one of the more difficult projects (rated three stars), because I have always wanted to try making a bag with a zipper. The tutorial was very easy to follow and I completed the project quickly and without having to use my seam ripper, which is a plus for me! If a novice like me can make this zipper pouch, then I think anyone could easily do this project. I love all the projects; the photos are beautiful, the tutorials easy, and the projects come together quickly. I can see myself doing all of them and giving them as homemade gifts. Another plus: you can use scraps for many of the projects. Ayumi’s easy-to-follow tutorials and beautiful fabric choices are inspiring to me and have made me a believer in sewing books! Now to see what I will add next to my sewing-book collection!

Lynn Lee

Lynn bravely tries a project from Patchwork Please! and succeeds.

Lynn bravely tries a project from Patchwork Please! and succeeds.

♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥          ♥

Pretty in Patchwork Doll Quilts by Cathy Gaubert   •   Lark Crafts

Screen shot 2014-02-15 at 9.56.34 AM

Cathy had two reasons for writing this book: one is that our busy lives often don’t allow us time to sew a bed-sized quilt and therefore try new techniques and blocks. The second is to show  that doll quilts are the perfect avenue to use up the many scraps that we accumulate. For both reasons, I wanted to learn more about this book.

The first section of the book gives us the basics:  the materials, the tools, putting it all together, and the finishing touches.  The sections on materials and tools are a bit brief for beginners, but are perfect for anyone with a little experience.  The section on putting it all together gives information on patchwork piecing, English paper piecing, foundation piecing, free-form + improvisational piecing, applique, embroidery, and quilting. Each technique is used somewhere on the quilts in this book. The section on the finishing touches includes information on binding, labels, washing, and display.

From here, Cathy and 19 top designers give detailed instruction for the 24 doll quilts.  Each one include materials, measurements, illustrations and, if necessary, patterns.

As I read through the book, I found that I wanted to start on many of the quilts  right on the spot!  Too bad I am away from home, my stash, and my sewing machine or I would do just that.

Mary Kolb   •   http://maryonlakepulaski.blogspot.com/

There’s nothing an editor likes more than a prompt, well-composed submission, so many thanks to our three contributors. We at SHWS hope you’ll consider the merits of these fun crafting titles.


Posted in Books & Products, Guests | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Pear-fect Pronto Pillow Project

Okay, speed your way through that tongue twister a few times!

Project-J:  Portrait made from Darra's postcard methodBack in January I tackled a few languishing UFOs in a rare fit of post-holiday productivity. Among the unfinished projects, a portrait of my mother from her Lauren Bacall look-alike days and a decorative pillow for her featuring pears, one of her favorite motifs. (I used Darra’s clever quilted postcard method to create the portrait.)

As it turned out, my sister hijacked the pear pillow because it suited her home design better. No worries there, my mother has admitted that she can’t possibly fit another inedible pear in her house—juicy ones fresh off a tree are welcome though. My sister Patti required that I make another pear pillow because, apparently, pillows should be bestowed in matched sets.

Project-J:  First completed pear pillow

The first pillow I made for my mother. The background fabric is a heavy cream-colored linen.

Pear Pillow How-To’s

So here you go, a simple and quick decorative pear pillow project told in photos. All you need is a pear photo (copy mine if you like), pear and leaf-green fabric scraps, silk or polyester organza scraps, fusible web, and beads. Choose your pillow size and work from there—I enlarged my pear image from 9 to about 16 inches and built a pillow to suit the larger pear dimensions.

Inspiration-J:  Pear image for pillow project

Jennifer’s Bartlett pear.

Supplies I used--pear and leaf-green fabrics, iridescent silk organza, linen, Japanese seed beads size 11.

Supplies I used–pear and leaf-green fabrics, iridescent silk organza, linen, Japanese seed beads.

Refer to my holiday pillow pattern in the FREE Pattern library if you want instructions for an easy-to-build envelope pillow.

  Enlarge your pear photo to suit your design. Cut out the pattern.

  Create the pear fabric by sewing together fabric strips. Use the enlarged pattern to cut out the pear unit from the stripped fabric.

Project-J:  Pieced fabric for pear project

Pear-green strip set.

Project-J:  Pattern pieces for pear project

Pin the enlarged pear pattern to the pear fabric.

Optional:  Affix the fusible web material to the organza. Trace the shadows falling on the pear’s surface onto the fused organza. Cut away the excess fabric, arrange the organza on the pear fabric as desired and fuse.

  Center the cut-out pear on your background fabric. Pin to secure and outline the pear with stitches–use a sewing machine or stitch by hand. Add beaded details as desired.

 Oh yes, that leaf:  trace a leaf pattern on green fabric prepped with fusible webbing. Fuse to pillow background and stitch the leaf’s outline and veining detail.

Project-J:  Adding organza and bead details to pear project

Half-finished pear with fused organza shadowing.

Project-J:  2nd completed pear for pear pillows

Presto! A decorative motif for pillow décor.
(Second time’s the charm: I like this version better.)

Be “fruitful” and may your finished projects multiply!


Posted in Projects | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Inspiration Plus: Putting Those Decorative Machine Stitches to Work

Do you ever wonder what you can do with that mind-boggling array of decorative stitches available on your sewing machine? If you’re like me, you may have tried a few–satin or blanket stitch for machine applique, perhaps–but that’s about it. On the other hand, my friend, Chris Porter, is never at a loss for creative ideas for putting those beautiful stitches to work. Time for some inspiration!

For Christmas, Chris surprised me with this lovely machine-appliqued, couched, and embroidered pouch.

Machine appliqued, couched, and embroidered pouch, 8 1/2" x 8 1/2", designed and made by Chris Porter

Machine appliqued, couched, and embroidered pouch, 8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″, designed and made by Chris Porter

Here’s a view of the back. Notice the use of variegated threads and couched silk ribbon trims.

Back view of fabric pouch by Chris Porter

Back view of fabric pouch by Chris Porter

The versatile size (8 1/2″ x 8 1/2″) makes it perfect for any number of uses; I found it ideal for corralling all those wires and chargers necessary for my digital camera, iPhone, and iPad. Now I always know where to find them here at home, and have a compact, convenient way to carry them when I travel.

Chris's pouch makes the perfect tote for all those chargers modern life requires.

Chris’s pouch makes the perfect tote for all those chargers modern life requires.

Chris has also been working those stitches to make journal covers as gifts for her friends, using a process similar to the one I described in my December 20 post. For this cover, she began with a beautiful mauve batik, to which she added a variety of decorative machine stitches in coordinating variegated thread.

Machine-embroidered journal cover, made by Chris Porter

Machine-embroidered journal cover, made by Chris Porter

Notice the stitched detail down the cover’s spine.

Cover opened to show spine detail

Cover opened to show spine detail

Rather than working with a single fabric, Chris pieced the next cover before adding the embellishments–a combination of machine-embroidery and couched ribbons.

Pieced and embellished journal cover, made by Chris Porter

Pieced and embellished journal cover, made by Chris Porter

I love the detail she added to the inside flap.

Feb 22_inside flap_orange

Chris has been using similar techniques to create other small gift items, such as needle books and eyeglass cases; the latter double nicely for stowing your rotary cutter. What a great way to familiarize yourself and experiment with your machine’s enhancements on a small scale before launching into a larger project! Here, Chris adapted one of her machine’s embroidery stitches to quilt Alphabet Soup, the cover quilt for our book, Cuddle Me Quick.

Detail of Alphabet Soup, made by Chris Porter; Chris adapted one of her machine's embroidery stitches to quilt the wiggly pattern around each block.

Detail of Alphabet Soup, made by Chris Porter; Chris adapted one of her machine’s embroidery stitches to quilt the wiggly pattern around each block.

Alphabet Soup, 39" x 45", made by Chris Porter

Alphabet Soup, 39″ x 45″, made by Chris Porter

Chris works on a Husqvarna Viking 960Q, but many of today’s machines offer similar stitching options. Why not take yours out for a spin?

Before leaving Chris, I have an exciting piece of news to report. In addition to the two books we have co-authored, Chris has written a number of best-selling books on her own. Her latest, Sensational Circle Quilts, will be published as an eBook (with video) and is scheduled for an April release. The publisher is Vivebooks, a British ePublisher–be sure to watch for it!

Chris Porter's newest book, coming out in April, will be published as an eBook!

Chris Porter’s newest book, coming out in April, will be published as an eBook!

That leaves me with one final bit of “business” for today, and that’s to announce the winner of Gwen Marston’s new book, Minimal Quiltmaking, from my Tuesday post. And that winner is vickievan! Congratulations, Vickie, and thanks to Gwen for providing the giveaway prize.

‘Til next time, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Posted in Books & Products, Embellishments, Inspiration | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Latest from that Amazing Quilter, Gwen Marston (+ a Giveaway!)

1-Giveaway IconAt one time or another, I suspect we’ve all had the experience of meeting someone new and feeling that immediate “click” of connection–the perfect description of my first encounter (in 1989!) with legendary and beloved Michigan quilter, Gwen Marston.

Gwen Marston

Gwen Marston

I wrote about Gwen, her then most-recent work, and her wonderful book, 37 Sketches, in a post back in January 2012. It’s a tribute to Gwen’s enduring popularity that this post remains one of our all-time, most-often viewed here at See How We Sew. Now, two years later, I decided it was time to check back with Gwen to find out what’s new. The answer? Lots!

First up: Gwen Marston, Contemporary Quilts, a solo exhibit at the Dennos Museum Center in Traverse City, MI. This exhibit runs through April 27 and includes work that Gwen has created in the past eight years, in which she continues to simplify, to melt the elements down to their most basic forms, allowing the color to speak in a stronger voice. Some of the pieces are the Small Studies from the aforementioned 37 Sketches (2011).D_Jan 27_37 Sketches Cover(1) (2)

"Small Study 4 (9" x 11") made and machine quilted by Gwen Marston; 2010

“Small Study 4 (9″ x 11″) made and machine quilted by Gwen Marston; 2010

Others are from her earlier book, Ideas and Inspirations: Abstract Quilts in Solids (2008).

Ideas and Inspirations cover

Broken Dishes (38" x 37"), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008

Broken Dishes (38″ x 37″), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008

Three Triangles (35" x 36"), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2010

Three Triangles (35″ x 36″), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2010

Red Square VI (39" x 42"), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008

Red Square VI (39″ x 42″), made and hand quilted by Gwen Marston, 2008

Still others reflect Gwen’s ongoing explorations, in which she pushes even further, working in a decidedly minimal style. This fresh, exciting, stripped-down approach takes center stage in–more news!!!–Gwen’s brand-new book, Minimal Quiltmaking, scheduled for publication by the American Quilter’s Society on March 1!

Gwen's newest, publishing March 1

Gwen’s newest, publishing March 1

Wouldn’t you like to be first among your friends to own Minimal Quiltmaking? Well, it happens that we’ll have a copy to give away to one of our readers as soon as the book hits the shelves. Just leave a comment by noon (PST) Thursday, February 20, telling us whether you consider yourself a “minimalist” or “maximalist” quilter (for example, in style, size or variety of your fabric stash, reliance on notions, degree of advance planning) and I’ll announce a winner in my Friday, February 21 post.

Finally, here’s a special treat! The Dennos Museum Center has placed Gwen’s entire presentation from the exhibit’s January 18 opening reception on YouTube. Watch and enjoy!

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

Posted in About, Books & Products, Dates & Places, Giveaways, Quilts | Tagged , , , , | 48 Comments

Improvisational Scrap Busting – French Style

I have spent the past two months finishing all the forgotten quilt projects I can possibly manage. This has been great for clearing my sewing room, checking off the to-do’s on my list, and giving me hope that I can actually start some new projects soon. There is a downside to all of this, though. My scrap collection grew from a pile into a basket, which then turned into a bin that overflowed onto the floor.


Just a small sample of my overflowing scraps. I keep this little basket next to my cutting mat.

Today, I dealt with this irritating problem. It took 2 1/2 hours, but I picked through, sorted, cut, and folded. I then gave everything a proper home. For the most part, I sorted things by color or favorite fabric style–ala Kaffe, solids, hand dyed, or dots and stripes. Scraps are trimmed into a variety of sizes for squares or strips and stored in drawers. The bits and pieces get tossed. How do you sort and store your leftovers?

get-attachment (1)

Leftover scraps of French and French inspired fabrics.

But then there are the fabrics that I adore so much, that it is hard to part with even the tiniest scrap. Today, that would be my French fabric collection. The colors and prints are so cheery in French fabrics. I just love to work with them. They are always a bit harder to find, which makes me want to use every inch of fabric possible. One of my favorite vendors is French Connection. They have an amazing collection of French prints and are usually at a few quilt shows that I attend.

get-attachment (2)

A block exchange project using the Bushel Basket Quilt block by Edyta Star, from Laundry Basket Quilts.

There is a fun little block I am making for a group exchange. It has little 1″ strips. We are using up Civil War reproduction scraps. The blocks are quick to make and work really well mixing oodles of prints. Tiny, but really cute. This got me thinking . . .


I could get another project out of my French scraps if I just cut them into 1″ strips!


What if my blocks were different sizes and shapes? That way I could use up as much of the scraps as possible! I started with a 2″ x 2 1/2″ center (because that is what I had). Since they are so small, maybe I could offset them with crisp white alternating blocks.


Uh-oh. I think I just started another project. Better get to work!

Happy Valentines Day all!

Authentic French Alpine Hearts Cotton Print

Signature Cropped

Posted in Blocks, Fabric, Inspiration, Projects | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Hari-Kuyo – The Ceremony of Broken Needles

In Japan, the Hari-Kuyo ceremony is held throughout Japan annually on the 8th of February. This 400-year-old tradition is held at Shinto Shrines and Buddhist temples as a celebration of the small tools used by seamstresses, embroiderers, and housewives over the previous year.

It is believed that these inanimate objects have souls and by using them, some of their pain is released. Broken or worn needles, pins, and some small scissors are brought to the ceremony and thanked for their good service in creating sashiko, kimonos, or even for daily mending. Then they are gently laid to rest in a soft tofu cake.


Tofu is symbolic in this instance for rest and tenderness; a peaceful place for the tools retirement. In observance of the ceremony, no sewing is to take place on this day, as this gives time for  reflection and time to pray that sewing skills improve the following year. Audrey Yang tells of the ceremony in a beautiful online booklet- Hari-Kuyo: Festival of the Broken Needle.

Stitch Modern Ceremony

East Bay Modern Quilt Guild held a version of this meaningful ceremony last Saturday, February 8th, as part of a series of events connected with Stitch Modern 2014, their annual show.

Photo by Pati Fried

I found paying my respects and praying to console my broken needles a wonderful opportunity to share in a time honored tradition . I spend so much of my day with needle and scissors in hand. It was a moment to reflect on my year as a quilter and to be thankful of the accomplishments made with these tiny tools. I have always tossed them away without regard to their importance to my craft. This was an opportunity to change my thinking.

Photo by Pati Fried

The ceremony was thoughtful and welcoming. Birgit Hottenrott, the driving force to celebrate Hari-Kuyo at Stitch Modern, shared the history and lore that has evolved with this special day. While she spoke, many brought their broken needles to rest in the peaceful bed of tofu. Birgit ended the ceremony with the lovely poem by Emily Dickinson, Don’t put up my Thread and Needle.

Photo by Pati Fried

Thank you Birgit, for bringing this lovely tradition to our attention. As this year proceeds, I fully intend to keep a special place for retiring my used needles until February 8, 2015, when I will again, pay them the respect they deserve and celebrate Hari-Kuyo.

Photo by Pati Fried

ではまた。Dewa mata, (See you later).

Signature Cropped

Posted in About, Dates & Places, Inspiration, Tools | Tagged , , | 11 Comments