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

Guest Post: Glorious Quilts from “Down Under” with Chris Porter

My friend, Chris Porter, in Crete, on holiday this time!
My friend, Chris Porter, in Crete, on holiday this time!

If you’ve been following us here at See How You Sew, you know that I’ve spoken often of my co-author and dear friend, Chris Porter. Chris and I met over 20 years ago at the Jinny Beyer Quilt Seminar in Hilton Head, SC. I was teaching, and she–a seasoned traveler, but first-time visitor to the States from her home in the UK–was a student in my class. We hit it off famously and our continued friendship has been one of the great joys of my life. We’re more like sisters than friends!

Since that serendipitous day in Hilton Head, Chris has gone on to become an internationally respected teacher, not only in her own country, but in the US and around the world. While I’ve retired from the teaching scene, I continue to travel vicariously with Chris through tales and photos from her exotic journeys. Recently, her teaching took her to “the land down under” and she came back brimming with reports of wonderful sights, friendly people, and–of course–fabulous quilts. Today I’ve invited her to share some of those quilts with you. Enjoy!

***********************************************************************************

It is my great good fortune to be invited to teach quilting all over the world. The past 18 months have seen me teaching all around the UK, where I live; in Kuwait, for their annual Quilt Exhibition and classes; on two cruises–one from Florida to the Panama Canal, and another, an Alaskan cruise from Seattle (both run by Quilt Seminars at Sea); and for an idyllic week in Burgundy, France. I also came to the States to attend Quilt Market in Houston with my great friend, Darra, to promote our latest book, Cuddle Me Quick. Quite an itinerary!

Another amazing highlight was my trip this past April to the other side of the world (for me!) to teach for the second time at the Australasian Quilt Convention in Melbourne, Australia. I tell you, when I started out on my pathway of patchwork and quilting, I had no idea that my life would turn out like this. What’s not to like!

The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, site of the Australasian Quilt Convention
The Royal Exhibition Building in Melbourne, site of the Australasian Quilt Convention

The show venue was the fabulous (and spacious) Royal Exhibition Building, with its high ceilings and exquisitely painted walls.

Inside the Exhibition Centre
Inside the Exhibition Centre

The show owners, Judy Newman and her husband, really know how to put on a show, and this year was no exception, with over 16,000 visitors, several exhibitions, and many vendors.

Here are a few of the beautiful quilts I saw at the show. Some of my selections are drawn from those in the competition theme–Free. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Galloping Wild and Free by Helen Godden
Galloping Wild and Free by Helen Godden
I Am Najood, and I Am Free by Gillian Shearer
I Am Najood, and I Am Free by Gillian Shearer
The Beautiful by Eun Ryoung Choi from Korea
The Beautiful by Eun Ryoung Choi from Korea
Coreopsis by Barbara Hind
Coreopsis by Barbara Hind
Coreopsis by Barbara Hind, detail
Coreopsis by Barbara Hind, detail
Sunset Over the Ocean by Barbara McLennan
Sunset Over the Ocean by Barbara McLennan
Free to Roam by Lucy Carroll
Free to Roam by Lucy Carroll
Nostalgia by You Hoon Chang from Korea
Nostalgia by You Hoon Chang from Korea
Out of the Darkness by Jo Frizza
Out of the Darkness by Jo Frizza
As Close to Flying While Still on the Ground by Cindy Watkins
As Close to Flying While Still on the Ground by Cindy Watkins

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Thanks so much to Chris for sharing this taste of quilting in Australia. It’s always fun to see what quilters in other parts of the world are doing, isn’t it?

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

Darra-signature

Marking the Year with Quilts (and a Giveaway!)

Happy Friday! The weather here in Northern California is lovely, and the sunflowers are dancing in the garden. Is it possible to look into the face of a sunflower in full bloom and not smile? I don’t think so!

Sunflower 2

A sunflower peeks out from amongst the zinnias. Wouldn't this make a lovely quilt?
A sunflower peeks out from amongst the zinnias. Wouldn’t this make a lovely quilt?

On the subject of happy, I’ve been loving your comments in response to Laura’s recent post, and to her question: “what causes you to do the ‘happy dance?’” The answers are creative and diverse, and I suspect we can see some of ourselves in all of them. Have a look–there is still time to comment for a chance to win the brand-new edition of Laura and Diana McClun’s classic book, Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!!, which comes out in October.

I’ve been doing a bit of the happy dance myself these days: I’ve just received a copy of the Spanish-language version of A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue! Not only is Sue, co-written with my friend, Chris Porter, now in its third printing at Martingale & Company, but it has been acquired by a European publisher, translated, and released as Un Ano en la Vida de Sunbonnet Sue.

The Spanish-language version of A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue
The Spanish-language version of A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue

The contents of the book remain the same, with the exception of the translation, of course. Only the cover is different. What fun to see Sue “enamorada” (February), experiencing “locura de marzo” (March), “en la playa” (August), and enjoying all the rest of her year-round activities!

The patterns and instructions are the same. Only the cover is different.
The patterns and instructions are the same. Only the cover is different.

If that weren’t enough reason to celebrate, I’ve also learned that Ladybug! Ladybug!, one of the quilts from Chris’s and my second book, Cuddle Me Quick, has been chosen to represent the month of June in That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014, which publishes on August 13.

Ladybug! Ladybug!, designed and made by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Chris Porter
Ladybug! Ladybug!, designed and made by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Chris Porter

This promises to be even better than your average quilt calendar. It includes 12 specially selected quilts by designers such as Amy Ellis (featured in Jennifer’s June 11 post), Kim Diehl, and Sally Schneider, PLUS a pullout booklet with step-by-step instructions for each quilt.

That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014, available in August
That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014, available in August

1-Giveaway IconAll this good news makes me want to give something away. How about a year of quilted eye candy? Leave a comment below by midnight (PDT) Wednesday, July 31, telling us which is your favorite month of the year and why, and you’ll be eligible to win a copy of That Patchwork Place Quilt Calendar 2014 as soon as it rolls off the presses next month. The winner will be announced in our August 2 post.

That’s it for now. ‘Til next time, happy stitching . . . and keep dancing!

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

New Quilts –and Other Updates–from Previous Darra Posts (and a Giveaway)

1-Giveaway IconIt’s hard to believe that by early next week, the first half of 2013 will be history. (Wait!? Didn’t we just take down the holiday decorations?) On the plus side: the halfway mark seems a good time to update you on a few of my previous posts with news and new quilt photos. Here goes:

The popular Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts
The popular Edyta Sitar of Laundry Basket Quilts

Update #1: One of the quilts that inspired my recent two-part post (April 9 and April 12) on the zigzag or streak of lightning set (and that encouraged me to finish my own in-progress, zigzag-set Churn Dash quilt top), was a quilt I spotted on Pinterest. It was designed by Edyta Sitar, of Laundry Basket Quilts, and I fell in love with its dainty 3 1/2″ Basket blocks and zigzags in alternating colors. I intended to contact Edyta for permission to include it in my posts, but Last-Minute LuLu that I am, I cut my deadline too close. Still, I couldn’t get that quilt out of my mind.

After playing a bit of email tag, Edyta and I did finally connect, and she’s pleased to share her quilt with our See How We Sew readers. Little Baskets is an outstanding example of my favorite set from one of today’s most popular and talented designers.

Little Baskets by Edyta Sitar/Laundry Basket Quilts
Little Baskets by Edyta Sitar/Laundry Basket Quilts

The story doesn’t end there. Little Baskets is available as a pattern, and we’ll be giving one away to a lucky SHWS reader. Leave a comment by noon Thursday, June 27, telling why you’d like to add this pattern to your library and we’ll announce a winner in our Friday, June 28 post.

Cuddle Me Quick coverUpdate #2: Last September, I posted a “sneak peek” of Rubber Duckies, one of 11 baby-quilt patterns in the book, Cuddle Me Quick, which I co-authored with my friend, Chris Porter. Recently, in need of a quilt to welcome a friend’s newborn daughter, Chris remade Duckies, switching out the blues and blue greens of my original for a sweet pink palette, and introducing gray prints for a very current color scheme. I love it, don’t you?

A pink version of Rubber Duckies, made by Chris Porter from the book, Cuddle Me Quick; photo by Neil Porter
A pink version of Rubber Duckies, made by Chris Porter from the book, Cuddle Me Quick; photo by Neil Porter

Update #3: I’m really excited about this next one! As I write this, the current (August) issue of The Quilt Life magazine is just hitting mailboxes, quilt shops, and newsstands. The theme of this issue is Playtime, and it features an article (on page 40) about my 30-minutes-of-creative-play pledge. The piece includes over a dozen of my little 3″ x 5″ collages (some not seen before in my SHWS posts), and two larger pieces, including one on the table of contents page.

The new (August 2013) issue
The new (August 2013) issue

To complement the article, The Quilt Life is running a simple tutorial via its website that shows you how to make and finish the basic 3″ x 5″ background “canvas.” Here’s the link for the download. Of course, in preparing the step-by-step photos, I needed to make a new collage.

Cherries Jubilee (3" x 5") by Darra Williamson; tutorial on The Quilt Life website
Cherries Jubilee (3″ x 5″) by Darra Williamson; tutorial on The Quilt Life website

I hope you’ll check out both the magazine and the website tute. These little collages are great for trying out new designs and techniques, and can lead to bigger things.

Cattails (7 1/2" x 10") by Darra Williamson; a slightly larger piece inspired by one of my 3" x 5" experiments
Cattails (7 1/2″ x 10″) by Darra Williamson; a slightly larger piece inspired by one of my 3″ x 5″ experiments
Larger still: Sunflowers (7" x 20" approx) by Darra Williamson; private collection
Larger still: Sunflowers (7″ x 20″ approx) by Darra Williamson; private collection

Update #4 (sorta): From time to time, my thoughtful husband emails me an image to brighten the start of my day or week, to make me smile, and/or to inspire or simply delight me. This past Sunday, I found the photo below waiting in my morning email. It was taken in my neighbor’s garden, where the artichokes are flowering. Although not an update on one of my posts, I think it’s a perfect complement to that lovely purple door in Laura’s Friday post. (Plus, purple is my favorite color!)

Cathy's artichoke flower; photo by Brooks Sheifer
Cathy’s artichoke flower; photo by Brooks Sheifer

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

Instant Sizzle: The Zigzag–or Streak of Lightning–Set (Part 1)

When I first moved to the North Carolina mountains in the mid-1980s, I came across a vintage quilt in a local antique shop that instantly caught my eye. There was something about that quilt that spoke to me and–of course–that quilt followed me home.

Hovering Hawks, maker unknown, Ohio, c. 1880 - 1900, collection of Darra Williamson
Hovering Hawks, maker unknown, Ohio, c. 1880 – 1900, collection of Darra Williamson

As soon as I got my new “baby” home and up on the wall, I realized the attraction. It was that irresistable, zingy zigzag set, and in bright, bubble-gum pink, no less. (Lesson: If you’re gonna do it, do it with panache!)

While not exactly commonplace, the zigzag–or streak of lightning–set appears in any number of antique and vintage quilts, and it’s come to be one of my favorites. I love the energy that it adds to the overall quilt design.

Six-Patch, maker unknown, probably Virginia, c. 1870 - 1890; from the Ardis and Robert James Collection, International Quilt Study Center & Museum
Six-Patch, maker unknown, probably Virginia, c. 1870 – 1890; from the Ardis and Robert James Collection, International Quilt Study Center & Museum

Over the years, inspired by these vintage beauties, I’ve made my share of quilts using the zigzag or streak of lightning set. I’ve run the zigzags vertically . . .

19th-Century Lullaby, pieced and hand quilted by Darra Williamson, 1994
19th-Century Lullaby, pieced and hand quilted by Darra Williamson, 1994

. . . or horizontally, depending upon the look I wanted to achieve.

Caribbean Taxis, pieced and hand quilted by Darra Williamson, 1992
Caribbean Taxis, pieced and hand quilted by Darra Williamson, 1992

If you’ve wanted to try the zigzag arrangement, but were afraid it might be too difficult, let me reassure you:  if you can sew a straight seam, you can piece this set. Here’s the secret: the blocks are pieced in rows. No set-in seams required! By staggering the blocks–that is, by dropping them a half step–in alternate rows the zigzag effect magically appears.

Rows_4

While the alternate rows in many vintage quilts (and in my quilts, “19th-Century Lullaby” and “Caribbean Taxis”) are finished with pieced half-blocks, I’ve found a much easier way to finish the rows. Instead of pieced blocks, I’ve substituted simple quarter-square setting triangles.

Quarter-square setting triangles; so much easier than piecing half-blocks!
Quarter-square setting triangles; so much easier than piecing half-blocks!

It’s the method that I used to piece the alternate (second and fourth) rows of “A-Tisket, A-Tasket,” which I made for Cuddle Me Quick, co-authored with my friend, Chris Porter.

A-Tisket, A Tasket, designed and made by Darra Williamson, machine appliqued and quilted by Chris Porter
A-Tisket, A Tasket, designed and made by Darra Williamson, machine appliqued and quilted by Chris Porter

Ready to give it a try?  In my Friday post I’ll tell you how to assemble the set, and also give cutting instructions for the 6″ Churn Dash that I used for the in-progress samples above.

6" finished Churn Dash block
6″ finished Churn Dash block

Thanks, as always, to the International Quilt Study Center for use of the Six-Patch quilt image. If you’ve never visited their site, pop on over. You’ll be glad you did.

That’s it for now. ‘Til Friday, happy stitching.

Darra-signature

Housing Projects, Part 2: A FREE Block Pattern…and More Wonderful Quilts!

It Takes a Village; 32 1/2" x 38 1/2", designed and pieced by Darra, machine quilted by Chris Porter
It Takes a Village; 32 1/2″ x 38 1/2″, designed and pieced by Darra, machine quilted by Chris Porter

If you read Part 1 of my post earlier this week, you know today’s post–Part 2–features instructions for the House block from my quilt, “It Takes a Village,” from Cuddle Me Quick. At the end of the instructions, you’ll find a few more examples of fun, funky, and fabulous house-themed quilts.

For one 4″ x 6″ finished block, you’ll need:

Door: One 2″ x 3 1/4″ piece

House: Two 1 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ pieces; one 1 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ piece

Background: Two 2 1/2″ squares

Roof: One 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ piece

From left: door, house, background, and roof pieces
From left: door, house, background, and roof pieces

To make the block:

1. Sew the 2″ x 3 1/4″ door piece between the two 1 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ house pieces; press away from the door piece.House_step 1

2. Sew the 1 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ house piece to the top edge; press toward the newly added piece.

House_step 2

3. Draw a line from corner to corner on the back of each 2 1/2″ background square. Pin one marked square right sides together with the 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ roof piece. Sew directly on the sewn line. Trim, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance. Press open, toward the corner.

House_step 3

4. Pin and sew the remaining marked  square to the unit from step 3. Trim and press.

House_step 4

5. Sew the roof unit to the top edge of the house unit; press toward the house unit.

House_step 5_finished block

In their book, Fresh Perspectives, Carol Gilham Jones and Bobbi Finley reinterpret 18 classic quilts from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, NE.

Fresh Perspectives cover One of those quilts just happened to be a circa 1890 -1910 Schoolhouse quilt.

Schoolhouse, circa 1890 - 1910, probably Oklahoma, maker unknown, 78" x 72", International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1997.007.0314
Schoolhouse, circa 1890 – 1910, probably Oklahoma, maker unknown, 78″ x 72″, International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1997.007.0314

Look how Bobbi “reinvented” this old favorite:

Happy Houses, 70 1/2" x 70 1/2", pieced by Bobbi Finley, machine quilted by Holly Casey
Happy Houses, 70 1/2″ x 70 1/2″, pieced by Bobbi Finley, machine quilted by Holly Casey

Bobbi says: “For the record, Barbara (Brackman) provided me with the pattern for Happy Houses, which she designed on BlockBase as I recall.  It was a fun quilt to make, and she watched me make it at the Point Bonita (CA) retreat one year.”

Artist Adrienne Yorinks works in a variety of media, but specializes in fabric. Her unique, house-based quilt, Woman to Woman, appears in Episode 1: Quilts 101 – Antique & Contemporary Quilts of the documentary series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics. Very different from the blue-and-white Schoolhouse quilt I showed from that series in Part 1 of this post!

Woman to Woman, designed and made by Adrienne Yorinks, 2009, 80" x 60", photo by D. James Dee, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter
Woman to Woman, designed and made by Adrienne Yorinks, 2009, 80″ x 60″, photo by D. James Dee, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter

In speaking about this quilt, Adrienne says, “I was commissioned to do the piece by the UJA (United Jewish Appeal)…(it) was presented to a woman’s shelter in Jerusalem and hangs there permanently. The photographs of the women on the quilt support the UJA and wanted to share a part of themselves with the women in the shelter that they help fund. I created a house image to encompass the photographs, anchoring the work as well as to hopefully bring comfort to the women and children who are living in the shelter.”

Ricky Tims is another versatile quilter who has put a unique spin on the traditional House block. He designed his quilt, Sunset Strip, for the August 2010 issue of The Quilt Life magazine (which includes instructions), and made it using his own hand-dyed fabric.

Sunset Strip, 42" x 36", designed and made by Ricky Tims
Sunset Strip, 42″ x 36″, designed and made by Ricky Tims

Ricky says about this quilt: “I love seeing what happens to one multi-colored fabric when it is cut up and slightly shifted. The technique used in the sky is one of my Convergence variations–Blended Convergence–which is one of the projects in my book, Convergence Quilts. By adding the paper-pieced houses, I was able to have a focal point. I really like making easy quilts that look sort of complicated. This one is a piece of cake!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part post. It was fun to write, and more than fun to track down so many wonderful quilts.

‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Darra-signatureP.S. For those of you who’d like a full view of Mary Stori’s quilt from my previous post, here goes. Don’t you just love the pieced sashing and cornerstones? (Thank you, Mary!)

Little Red Schoolhouses, made and quilted by Mary Stori, 56 1/2" x 71 1/4"
Little Red Schoolhouses, made and quilted by Mary Stori, 56 1/2″ x 71 1/4″

Housing Projects: Schoolhouse Quilts, Then and Now (Part 1)

While visiting my mother-in-law in Florida last week, I took advantage of the beautiful weather to enjoy a seaside stroll, and happened upon an adorable 8-year-old girl drawing in the sand. I was quite taken with her, and asked if she would allow me to photograph her artwork. She graciously assented.

Artwork in the Sand

Her inspiration?

Beach hut

Later on, when I viewed the photos I had taken that afternoon, something struck me as oddly familiar. Then it hit me: the simple lines of that drawing in the sand (and the inspiration for it) reminded me of the super-easy House block I had used in “It Takes a Village,” one of the quilts from my latest book, Cuddle Me Quick, co-authored with Chris Porter.

It Takes a Village; 32 1/2" x 38 1/2", designed and pieced by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Christine Porter, from our book, "Cuddle Me Quick"
It Takes a Village; 32 1/2″ x 38 1/2″, designed and pieced by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Christine Porter, from our book, “Cuddle Me Quick”

Cuddle Me Quick cover

I’ve always loved the Schoolhouse block (and its many variations). Back in the day, I even collaborated with editor Karen Soltys to produce the Schoolhouse volume of The Classic American Quilt Collection series produced by Rodale Press. This 122-page, hardcover book included photos and instructions for 11 wonderful quilts made by quilters from around the country, including well-known teachers and authors Sharyn Craig and Mary Stori.

The Classic American Quilt Collection_Schoolhouse_cover_2

Mary Stori's Little Red Schoolhouses, as it appeared in Rodale's Classic American Quilt Collection: Schoolhouses
Mary Stori’s Little Red Schoolhouses, as it appeared in Rodale’s Classic American Quilt Collection: Schoolhouses

All this got me thinking about the many wonderful Schoolhouse and other house-themed quilts I’ve seen over the years, both vintage and newly made. For example, I’ve always loved the colorful and quirky House quilt detailed on the cover of Laura’s (and Diana McClun’s) book, Quilts, Quilts, and More Quilts!

Quilts Quilts and more Quilts cover

Here’s a view of the entire quilt. Can’t you just picture it over a sofa or buffet?

Rowhouse, 75" x 38", designed and pieced by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, hand quilted by Anna Venti
Rowhouse, 75″ x 38″, designed and pieced by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, hand quilted by Anna Venti

In the traditional vein, it’s hard to top this lovely blue-and-white beauty that appears in Episode 2: Quilts Bring History Alive of the landmark documentary series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics.

Schoolhouse or House in a Garden Maze, 1890 - 1892, maker unknown, photo by Sharon Risedorph, photo courtesy Rod Kiracofe, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter
Schoolhouse or House in a Garden Maze, 1890 – 1892, maker unknown, photo by Sharon Risedorph, photo courtesy Rod Kiracofe, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter

Quilt history has always fascinated me, and I typically begin my search for good, solid info with quilt historian, Barbara Brackman. Her classic book, Clues in the Calico, has been my Number 1 “go-to” resource since it landed on my shelf in the late 1980s, and once again it proved to be just the ticket. (NOTE: Although the hardcopy version of Clues in the Calico has been out of print for some time, you can find it via Barbara’s wonderful blog, Material Culture. Click on the link and scroll down the page until the book appears in the left-hand column. You’ll find a link there for the eBook version as well.)

clues in the calico_2

From Barbara’s book, I learned that the pieced block we call Schoolhouse appeared rather late in the nineteenth century (c. 1880 – 1890), and was known by a variety of names (including Old Kentucky Home, Old Folks at Home, and Lincoln’s Log Cabin) until Ruth Finley gave it the familiar moniker, Little Red Schoolhouse, in 1929. Barbara featured the block in her “Quilt Block of the Week” series last November. Click here to view her post, which includes directions for making this 8″ finished block.

Little Red Schoolhouse block, made by Becky Brown, appears in Barbara Brackman's Quilt Block of the Week series, 11/20/12
Little Red Schoolhouse block, made by Becky Brown, appears in Barbara Brackman’s Quilt Block of the Week series, 11/20/12

I asked Barbara if she had photos of any special Schoolhouse quilts that she might share. She came up with this great interpretation, made in 1987 by her sewing group, Seamsters’ Union Local #500. Read more about it on her blog by clicking  here.

The Douglas County Bank Quilt, made by The Seamsters' Union Local #500, Lawrence, KS, 1987, collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
The Douglas County Bank Quilt, made by The Seamsters’ Union Local #500, Lawrence, KS, 1987, collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum

Don’t forget to check back for Part 2 of this post on Friday, January 18. It will include instructions for making the 4″ x 6″ finished House block that appears in my quilt “It Takes a Village” (shown above), along with photos of some other wonderful house-themed quilts, old and new.

‘Til then, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Gotcha Covered! Stitch Up a Stylish (and Easy) iPad Case for Gifting (or Keeping)

I’ve been dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age; I’m much more comfortable in an analog world. I like to keep my technology at a minimum.

Welcome to my analog world, where clocks have faces; books and calendars have pages.

A few years back, when the iPad made the scene, my reaction was typical: “Why would I ever want one of those things?” Then, about six months ago, my husband (a true acolyte of technology) upgraded and offered me his castoff. I’m hooked.

One of the biggest advantages to “the Pad” is its portablility. There are tons of sleeves, cases, covers, and carriers out there, but to me, they all looked so–well, so uninteresting. You can guess what happens next.

This is a fun, easy, and super creative project–fast too, depending upon how you decide to embellish it. It makes a great gift, although I suspect you’ll want to make one for yourself as well. The finished size is approximately 9 1/2″ x 11 1/2″.

What You’ll Need:

Cotton batting, fusible, lining fabric: one 11-1/2″ x 19″ piece each

Fusible, outer (front) fabric: one 13-1/2″ x 21″ piece each

Scrap of 1/8″-wide ribbon and a decorative button (for closure)

Fabric and fusible scraps, decorative threads, beads, buttons, trims, and other embellishments as desired

Directions:

1. Fuse lining fabric, right side up, to batting using the 11-1/2″ x 19″ piece of fusible.

2.  Apply 13 1/2″ x 21″ piece of fusible to wrong side of outer fabric.

Left: Outer fabric/fusible (13 1/2″ x 21″); Right: Lining/Fusible/Batting (11 1/2″ x 19″)

3. Center prepared batting, lining side up, over fusible side of prepared outer fabric. Starting with the two long sides, turn outer fabric to the lining; press to fuse. Repeat for both short sides, squaring the corners; press. Clip excess fabric at corners on the diagonal.

Fold edges of outer fabric over lining; clip excess corner fabric on the diagonal.

4. Fold unit in half, lining sides together; press. Unfold and use an erasable fabric marker to lightly mark crease. This identifies front area of case for embellishment.

Fold and mark.

5. Quilt as desired. I quilted a simple wavy-line pattern in matching thread; finished in no time.

Wavy-line quilting; fast and easy

6. Use fabric scraps, decorative threads, ribbons, trims, rubber stamps, buttons, and/or other notions to embellish as desired.

7. Center and stitch a decorative button close to top edge of case front. Knot tails of a small ribbon scrap; center and stitch to inside top edge of case back.

You could substitute elastic for the looped ribbon.

8. Refold cover, lining sides together. Starting with a few backstitches, topstitch 1/4″ from each side edge. Finish with a few backstitches.

Stop and start side seams with backstitching for reinforcement.

Slip your iPad inside the case, button up, and you’re ready to go!

I used a luscious, deep gray, hand-dyed solid for the outside of my case–I absolutely love the sueded look of those Cherrywood cottons!–but the fabric choice is up to you. Substitute ribbon ties, snaps, or even velcro for the button-and-loop closure. If you like, add handles. Personalize for the recipient with a monogram or other favorite motifs. Possibilities? Endless!

So much fun…and so easy!
Jennifer’s famous jewelry pouch!

On the subject of hand-crafted gifts: If you’re a relatively new visitor to See How We Sew, visit our archives from last November and December. There are instructions and patterns for a few terrific holiday gifts: a super-easy, super-cool jewelry pouch (great stocking stuffer!); an autumn-leaf bedecked and an elegant snowflake pillow; a sweet little pincushion (perfect for your stitching friends); and a cute miniature stocking that doubles as an ornament/gift-card holder.

Finally, I’m happy to announce that the winner of the random drawing for Pretty in Patchwork: Holidays from Tuesday’s post is Marilyn Chapman. Marilyn, please email your snail-mail address to seehowwesew@gmail.com, and I’ll pop your book in the mail so you can start stitching up some holiday goodies. (And Marilyn? Your comment was beautiful.)

Whoops…not so fast! I just received an email from Martingale & Company, publisher of my books (with friend, Chris Porter), Cuddle Me Quick and A Year in the Life of Sunbonnet Sue. They’re having a huge online sale now through Monday:

Click here for the link to the sale.

That’s it for now (honestly). ‘Til next time, happy stitching!