“First Quilt, Latest Quilt” — Verna Mosquera (Double Giveaway Today!)

1-Giveaway IconWhenever we attend a quilt show, pick up the current issue of a quilting magazine, or peruse the latest book by a favorite instructor, it’s always with the anticipation of seeing “what’s new.” It’s the rare quilter, however, who springs fully evolved to the quilting scene. There’s one experience that we all share, no matter how novice or experienced: the first quilt.  We thought it would be fun (and encouraging!) to ask an established quilter to share not only the most recent, but also his or her very first quilt. And so we launch a new, “occasional” feature–First Quilt, Latest Quilt–and our first featured quilter is the talented Bay Area quilter, pattern and fabric designer, and soon-to-be author, Verna Mosquera.

Verna in her studio; photo courtesy Gregory Case
Verna in her studio; photo courtesy Gregory Case

Since taking her first quilt class in 1996, Verna–in her own words–was hooked. “I knew it was trouble when I couldn’t wait to get home to take my new fabric purchases out of the bag. Still, to this day, I lay out my fabric along the dashboard of my car and enjoy them during the ride home.”

Verna has come a long way from her days as a newbie quilter. In 1998, she began teaching classes, and in 2004 she established what has become a very successful home-based business called The Vintage Spool: Romantic & Timeless Quilt Design. She designs and markets a pattern line  (including Block of the Month patterns), specially prepared fabric kits, and even offers retreats. To date, she has designed a number of fabric collections for Free Spirit (including voiles and laminated cottons) that reflect her distinctive, romantic aesthetic . . . with more to come.

Verna's Autumn Sunset quilt, made using her October Skies collection; fabric kit and pattern available on The Vintage Spool website; photo courtesy Gregory Case
Verna’s Autumn Sunset quilt, made using her October Skies collection; fabric kit and pattern available on The Vintage Spool website; photo courtesy Gregory Case

Here are Verna’s first and latest quilts, and what she has to say about them. (Be sure to read to the end for info on today’s DOUBLE giveaway and the announcement of a special June debut.)

Verna’s First Quilt

In 1996, I decided to take a quilting class as a New Year’s resolution to continue to be more creative. I never in a million years knew how that decision would change my life. I was so fortunate to have had the sweetest, most knowledgable teacher in Laura Nownes. The project was a sampler quilt, one I’m certain that many of your readers have made–if not one very much like it. I learned about choosing an inspiration fabric to set the color palette. Then, with each week, I approached a new block and/or technique. Those 12 weeks gave me an incredible foundation on which to build. I was able to learn the simple rules of quilting which have served me so well.

Verna's first quilt, made in 1996 in a class taught by our own Laura Nownes
Verna’s first quilt, made in 1996 in a class taught by our own Laura Nownes

It has been such a long time since I looked at that first quilt. Today, as I pulled it out to take a photo, I truly realized how far I’d come from those imperfect stitches, cut-off points, and horrific applique!

Verna's early attempts at applique; photo courtesy Verna Mosquera
Verna’s early attempts at applique; photo courtesy Verna Mosquera

While I am my worst critic, I still could see a foreshadowing in the quilt of what was to come: my ability to group fabrics and color combinations, my need to use many fabrics in one quilt, and my creativity within each block–almost as if each one told a little story.

Note the angel in the window; photo courtesy Verna Mosquera
Note the angel in the window; photo courtesy Verna Mosquera

My most vivid memory of working on that quilt was how I just couldn’t stop working on it. I would spend hours and hours quilting, and today that has not changed.

Fast Forward to Today

One of the things I love about being an artist is that inspiration comes from everywhere, and I never know when it will spark. Last January, I was vending at a Southern California show and realized that my “neighbor” was one of my favorite booths for vintage buttons, ribbons, and trim. Knowing it would be a danger zone for me, I resisted the urge to step next door until the final hours of the show. It wasn’t minutes into my visit before I shifted from vendor into artist mode. One bit of trim led me to a wonderful button, and on to a gorgeous piece of delicate lace. I had a wonderful time gathering my vintage treasures. As I collected the bits, I ran next door and asked my assistant for a cellophane bag to put my gathered goodies in. As the color palette grew, it reminded me of a painting I had seen years ago on a visit to Paris. The painting was Ballerina Dancers In Pink by Edgar Degas; the wonderful taupes, pinks, and ivories were just stunning together.

Ballerina Dancers in Pink by Edgar Degas
Ballerina Dancers in Pink by Edgar Degas

When I got home from the show, I pulled the image of the painting up on my computer. I was amazed to see the colors in my bag were spot on the colors in the Degas painting. Stunned that I could remember the beauty of the colors in the painting so clearly, I knew I had the starting point for my newest fabric collection, Pirouette. When I received the first of those fabrics from Free Spirit, it seemed only fitting to design a quilt to showcase them. The result was Prima Ballerina.

The latest from Verna Mosquera: Prima Ballerina, made using the fabrics from her Pirouette collection for Free Spirit; pattern available on The Vintage Spool website; photo courtesy Gregory Case
The latest from Verna Mosquera: Prima Ballerina, made using the fabrics from her Pirouette collection for Free Spirit; pattern available on The Vintage Spool website; photo courtesy Gregory Case
Detail of Prima Ballerina; photo courtesy Gregory Case
Detail of Prima Ballerina; photo courtesy Gregory Case

Thank you, Verna, for sharing your story with us, and for sharing the photo below, which demonstrates how those lovely Pirouette fabrics can grace a “real-life” ballerina as well.

How cute is this? Ensemble (including tote) made with fabrics from Verna's Pirouette collection; photo courtesy Tara Molles Photography
How cute is this? Ensemble (including tote) made with fabrics from Verna’s Pirouette collection; photo courtesy Tara Molles Photography

Thanks to Verna also for providing us with goodies for two wonderful giveaways. Readers, leave us a comment by end of day Wednesday, May 8, telling us a tidbit about your first or most recent quilt, and you’ll be entered into a drawing to receive a Prima Ballerina pattern and a packet of 8 fat-quarters from Verna’s Pirouette fabric line OR a charm pack of  5″ squares from the Pirouette collection. Darra will announce the winners in her Friday, May 10 post.

giveaway romance_1

Finally, we would be remiss if we didn’t tell you that Verna’s first book (published by F&W Media) will be coming out on June 30. It’s called A Sewn Vintage Lifestyle: 20 Pieced and Appliqued Projects for Quilts, Bags and More. Be sure to watch for it!

A Sewn Vintage Lifestyle

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

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Yes – You Can Buy Happiness! But How Much Should You Buy?

Can money buy happiness? Absolutely! While browsing in one of my favorite local quilt shops, I bought Happiness, a new fabric line from Free Spirit.

"Happiness" comes in many forms.

When I first spotted the bolts they were stacked on the cutting table – they hadn’t even made it to the shelves yet. It’s exciting to get the first cuts off of new bolts (kind of like the first spoonful of ice cream out of a new pint). Next came the decision of whether to buy the blue or the pink…..

"Happiness" comes in pink too.

I loved them both so bought some of each!

Happiness is the latest fabric line from designer Kathy Davis, who, I have discovered, is a very versatile artist.  In addition to designing fabric, she has greeting cards, stationery, prints, gift wrap, calendars and gift items. Kathy is the author of “Scatter Joy: Living, Giving, and Creating a Life You Love.” On her website I was admiring the fabrics in her three previous lines Journeys, Blossoming and Ambrosia, and realized I already had some of those pieces in my stash. Some go nicely with the new line. I guess I’ve been a fan and didn’t know it.

A question that comes up frequently in the quilt shop is how much fabric to purchase when you find a line you love but aren’t sure what you’re going to do with it. If it’s a focus fabric that I really, really love, and can see using it in more than one project, I get 3 yards.  Most of the time I’ll get 1½ or 2 yards of the focus fabric, which will give me enough for a border and the central design in a lap-size quilt. For blenders and coordinating pieces, I usually buy ½ yards.

Happy New Year and congratulations to Jay Zitter, the winner of our special, secret New Year’s giveaway. Jay will receive a copy of one of our favorite books, “A Year of Creativity: Seasonal Guide to New Awareness,” by Brenda Mallon.

I wish you all the best in 2012 and hope it brings you much happiness.

Tree Trunks to Bouganvilla – The Quilts are Finished and the Giveaway is a “Challenge”

If you’ve been a faithful reader (we thank you all), you’ll remember my September 27th post, which focused on color inspiration derived from two very different photos from Mother Nature, an intriguing tree trunk and gorgeous bouganvilla flowers.  Using these sources as our color palettes, my friend Sally and I challenged each other to make a quilt using the Urban Chic pattern from Artichoke Collection.  It was great fun and we’re both rather pleased with our quilts (both were machine quilted by our very talented friend Elaine Beattie).

Here’s the tree trunk photo:

Christie's tree trunk

Here’s the quilt:

Christie's quilt inspired from the tree trunk.

Here’s the bouganvilla photo:

Sally's bouganvilla plants

Here’s the quilt:

Sally's quilt inspired from the bouganvillas.

Check out the backing fabric on Sally’s quilt – it’s from the Wrenly Collection by Valori Wells for Free Spirit. How cute is that?

Cute backing from Free Spirit - Wrenly.

So, are you ready to take the challenge? Let me know what fabrics you would use as inspiration for this pattern – Mother Nature, theme fabrics, a specific color palette, a holiday (I’ve seen it done beautifully in Christmas fabrics). The ten winners selected will each receive a downloadable version of the Urban Chic pattern. The “challenge” entries must be submitted no later than Saturday, November 12th.  The winners will be announced in our group post Tuesday, Nov. 22nd.

And finally, the winner of the fall batik fabric bundle giveaway from my October 25th post is Gayle Grier. Congratulations to Gayle and thank you to everyone who entered.

Happy November!